The Super Mario Bros. Movie is the latest addition to the ‘video game movies can be good’ evidence pile.
Produced by Chris Meledandri and Shigeru Miyamoto (basically Mario’s dad), and the awesome talents of Illumination, The Super Mario Bros. Movie has the bros themselves, Mario and Luigi, sucked into the magical world of warp pipes, mushroom people, and power-up blocks. Unfortunately, Bowser is set to destroy everything, find love, and reign supreme.
As we settled in the cinema surrounded by kids, big and small, we were immediately hit with a wave of nostalgia as the titular characters appeared on the big screen, looking much more appealing and familiar than their last foray onto the big screen. Animation-wise everything looked gorgeous, with the video game characters requiring only a few tweaks to maximise their characterisation and expressiveness. Coupled with Illumination’s team, the world of the Mushroom Kingdom took on a kind of beauty never really expressed in the games.
The musical score was an auditory delight, with familiar themes making an appearance constantly, as well as the additions of a few rock and love ballads. We were especially thrilled to hear the ‘DK Rap’ at the appropriate moment.
Turning game logic into movie logic is a challenging thing, and incorporating familiar mechanics into the movie world, and the powerups, was an experience all on its own. It was a lot of fun to see a powerup block, to see what the powerup was, and then to witness how that powerup would be used was hysterical. That wasn’t the only example of how the movie translated video game mechanics into the world, with my favourite mechanic being a Mario Kart mechanic, where you’re required to build your kart. The addition of this mechanic was clever and overall just a lot of fun, adding a lot of character to the setting, and being a familiar call-back.
And that was a common theme. As adults who grew up with these games, it was a joy to spot various references and additions, nudge each other, and meet each other’s grins as our inner child fed on the nostalgia. And for the kids who also grew up with these games, just perhaps with more pixels, it was a satisfying movie, with thoughtful nods and delights for them. Really, I don’t think anyone left the cinema without feeling a bit like a kid, in the best way possible.
I’m not sure if it’s a very rewatchable movie for the adults, but it was a lot of fun to watch through for the first time. For the kids, easily something I’d rewatch a couple of times. There were scenes that had me laughing, cheering for our heroes, appreciating the references, or even needing a tissue for (sue me, I’m a sap).
It’s a fun movie, a beautiful movie, and definitely a fantastic way to spend a couple of hours. Everyone’s performance was lovely, especially Bowser’s, the music was a treat, and we all left the cinema feeling that urge to boot up the Nintendo64, Switch, or NintendoDS and continue the nostalgia trip.