The Super Mario Bros. Movie (1993 vs. 2023) “This ain’t no game!”

The Super Mario Bros. Movie (1993 vs. 2023) This aint no game!

Oscar Lopez, Staff member

Nintendo’s Super Mario is possibly the single most recognizable video game franchise in the world. From first appearing in arcades in 1981, to making its home console debut in 1985 on the N.E.S, Mario has been nothing short of an icon, with each new game garnering wide praise from both critics and fans alike. With this sort of widespread appeal, it would be no wonder that Nintendo would want to capitalize on its golden plumber, especially when it came to movies. Not counting the Japanese exclusive animated film in 1986, there have been two separate attempts to put Mario on the big screen with mixed results on both products. But as a long time fan of the whimsical Italian turtle stomper, I watched both these films expecting to see how well they adapted the source material as well as understand the whole phenomenon of turning video games into movies from two separate eras. So without further adieu, let’s a go! 


Super Mario Bros. (1993) 

To say that the 1993 Mario Movie is infamous would be an absolute understatement. Because video games were relatively new at this time, movies based on them had very little involvement by the games’ creators, which usually meant very drastic changes from game to movie, and the Mario movie was definitely no exception.

Directed by Anabelle Jankel and Rocky Morton, the film stars Mario and Luigi, played by Bob Hoskins and John Leguizomo respectively, two Italian plumbers who get dragged into a prehistoric dystopian dimension to save Princess Daisy, played by Samantha Mathis, from the evil corporate overload King Koopa, played by Dennis Hopper, who wants take over both worlds by merging the human world and dino world together by using the asteroid that “supposedly” took out the dinosaurs. If you’re wondering what any of this has to do with the Mario games in the slightest, then you’ve already discovered the major problem of this film. 

Any semblance that this movie has with the games are purely surface level at best, resorting to an original plot that throws out all sense of sanity with it. The decision to turn the bright and bubbly mushroom kingdom into a blade runner-esque city of people constantly robbing and punching each other sort of informs the type of movie that this is. The plot makes little sense, focusing on separate dimensions and randomly inserting new elements and plot beats on a whim without any further context, like having characters switch sides on a dime or having them meander about in a dance scene for 3 minutes straight, on two separate occasions. The characters also act just as weird, usually doing or saying things that make no sense, with the highlights being when Luigi pranks Mario into jumping off a ledge and Koopa literally ordering a pizza. Nothing about this movie makes any lick of sense, like how the CGI is terrible but the practical effects on the dinosaurs look surprisingly good. There is just no logic to anything that happens. 

But with that being said, as much as I’ve listed the obvious flaws to this movie, I just can’t find myself to hate it. As a Mario fan and a movie enjoyer, I find this film to be hilarious in a “so bad it’s good” type of way. All the off the wall silliness, pointless scenes, and backwards characters just contribute to a product that I find myself laughing at how absurd it all is. And there are glimpses of good in this, particularly with Bob Hoskins’ Mario and Dennis Hopper’s King Koopa. Mario just acts like a regular middle aged man that just thrown in the most unhinged scenario ever, constantly getting beaten and tortured, while Koopa acts like a raging lunatic the whole, talking about how much he loves mud and monologing to a mushroom about how he is gonna take over the world. There is just this undeniable charm to it, like the people making this were trying to create what they believe was  the greatest movie of all time, and you have to at least respect that. At some point, you just have to turn your brain off and not question it any further with this movie. 

So overall, is the movie a good adaptation? No. Is it a good movie in general? No. Would I still enjoy watching it with a couple of friends? Absolutely. The 1993 Mario Movie is an absolute dumpster fire of a film that I’ll gladly pull up a seat to watch. 


The Super Mario Bros. (2023) 


But as we say goodbye to the era of movies that barely resembled the actual games, we move on into modern times where the landscape of video game movies have changed. Gaming is currently big right now, meaning that more companies are having a direct hand in shaping these adaptations, which Nintendo was fully willing to do with the new Mario movie. How was the result? 

Developed by Illumination, the company that brought you those facebook memes that you wished your mother would stop sending, the movie follows Mario and his brother Luigi, voiced by Chris Pratt and Charlie Day, two plumbers struggling to prove themselves to their family and the world. During one such job, they get sucked into a warped pipe and transported into the mushroom kingdom, where the villainous Bowsers, voiced by Jack Black, plans to use the power of the super star to take over the world and marry Princess Peach, voiced by Anya Taylor-Joy. Mario meets up with Peach as they both set off, accompanied by a little Toad companion, voiced by Keegan-Michael Key, to put a stop to his plan and save the mushroom kingdom. 

First thing to mention is how stunning the animation looks. While certainly not at the level of Pixar, Illumination was able to successfully bring Mario’s world to life, with so many moving pieces and fluid action scenes, looking directly like the games. On that topic, this movie is absolutely catered towards Mario fans for better and worse. As a long time fan, it was so fun to recognize and point out many of the iconic elements of the video games, like familiar settings, power ups, and musical references. But the problem with that sort of direction is how little it does with actually explaining this world to new fans who may have never played a Mario game before. They don’t really stop to explain how this world really works because it expects you to already know going into it, which I obviously did but doesn’t really help to bring new fans in. 

The plot is pretty standard, nothing really special about it. It’s just a simple “stop the bad guy” affair that takes us through many locations and interacting with a bunch of kooky characters. The movie did provide a couple of funny moments, nothing laugh out loud but just enough to give me a good chuckle, like Bowser’s piano ballad and the nihilistic luma which are particularly memorable. The only major downside with the plot comes with the character arcs, or rather the lack of them. This movie has a real problem of starting off a character’s arcs in the beginning and just completely forgetting about till the end or resolving it quickly. Like how Luigi is set up as a coward and his whole arc is about learning to overcome that, but instead of showing his gradual growth throughout the film, he’s locked in a cage the whole time and doesn’t come to help till the very end. And one scene with Mario and Donkey Kong, played by Seth Rogen, is especially agree gis. They set up both these two as really hating each other but having a need to prove themselves. So when both are presented alone together, instead of having a moment to talk to each other, they immediately leave the scene and are now presented as friends without any further context. It’s definitely distracting for any fan of these characters who really want to see major developments from them. 

Speaking of characters, the cast for them was generally good. Although people were heavily joking about him, Chris Pratt honestly did a decent job playing the red Italian we all know and love and the voice wasn’t too much of a bother once you get used to it. Same goes with everyone as they all did a pretty serviceable job, with the stand outs coming from Charlie day’s Luigi (making him so hard to not want to protect) and Jack Black’s Bowser, (who always brings such a level of enthusiasm to anything he’s in) albeit showing up a lot less than other characters. 

So while it may not be the greatest thing in the world, it’s still a pretty solid time. It was just a fun inoffensive film that did a good job at transitioning the bros. into their second film debut and for many more movies to come. Here’s hoping for a Mario and Sonic movie crossover to come out anytime soon (which it probably won’t. How sad.).