These days most gamers cringe when a video game based on a movie is announced. You know it is a going to be a quick cash grab title, created by a B-team group of developers, simply brought into this world to ride the wave of success that the motion picture may create.
I, however, like to look at these games differently. I like to think of them as payback for the garbage movies from the 90’s that Hollywood vomited into existence based on our childhood past time. Let’s take a closer look at the best of the worst.
The first offender? Super Mario Bros. The Movie.
Hollywood Pictures presents a Lightmotive / Allied Filmakers Presentation of:
The movie starts off on a high point. After the usual studio logos roll, we are greeted with the familiar Super Mario Bros. theme song. So far so good.
That is until the tune fades along with the titles to a poorly animated 16-bit cut scene that introduces us to a duo of scowling dinosaurs with matching Brooklyn accents. We’re told via voice-over that 65 million years ago a meteorite crashed into the Brooklyn area, splitting our dimension into two. In one, humans evolved from mammals and in the other humans evolved from lizards. What if those lizards found a way to merge our dimensions and make their way back to our resource rich dimensional plain?
And so our adventure begins.
When it takes two directors and three writers to adapt a video game based on a plumber who only runs left to right, jumps on turtles, collects coins and breaks bricks with his fists, you know there might be some challenges in the enjoyment of what you’re about to watch.
If you ask anybody to describe Super Mario Brothers and the Mario Brothers universe in general, how do you think they would answer? Plumber brothers? Power up mushrooms, flowers and suits? Red and green overalls? Those sound familiar.
How about these gems: Getting hit in the testicle jokes? Bumbling henchmen who run into panes of glass to fill up the slapstick quota? How about endless minutes of boring exposition littered throughout, fleshing out the world and creating unnecessary back stories for characters?
If memory serves, the most important plot detail I needed to know from the games was that Mario had to save Princess Peach and that she was always in another castle.
It takes 18 minutes for us to get to our first action sequence. An “exciting” scene where we see the plumber brothers in action, fighting against some leaking pipes that threaten to flood our females leads dig site. Never were our heroes in danger and clearly the writers didn’t ask if anyone ever got excited by high-stakes pipe repair.
If you compile all the action scenes, watching this film starts to feel less like Mario Brothers and more like The Blues Brothers. The majority of the action is based on car chases. Vehicular hijinks were never a staple of the Mario universe until the Kart series came along and even then they were delegated to their own games and never part of a main hero quest.
One of the most insulting things about this movie is how they took familiar characters and names and made them ridiculous.
Most Mario fans are familiar with the Thwomps, who are a race of spike-encrusted living stones which Mario needs to run under in order to get to the next room in a castle. In this movie Thwomps have been rebranded to a shoe manufacturer company that created a line of jet-propelled boots.
Oh sure, Koopa Coins are still the currency, but I don’t remember ever playing a game where the Hammer Brothers ran a tattoo parlor, where Bullet Bills was a bar, or where Goombas were 7 foot tall, shrunken-headed lizard henchmen who used rocket-propelled grenade launchers that shoot fireballs.
Thirty minutes into the story we meet loveable Toad, the loyal servant of Princess Peach, who has been reduced to a street busker. He is used primarily to sing a song about the sorry state of the Mushroom Kingdom and later a device for expository conversation explaining to our heroes the history of the dimension they are in.
At least they sort of got Yoshi right, represented here as a 3 foot tall T-Rex / Raptor hybrid, a loyal pet to the royal family of Koopas. Unfortunately he he doesn’t eat any apples, give birth to any power ups, or act as a mount to get our heroes from point A to point B.
The first time we even see the iconic red & green colour palette, it’s reversed. Six minutes in Mario wears green and Luigi is in red. It takes another hour until we finally see Mario and Luigi in their traditional garb.
Overall, as you may have guessed, I don’t have enough thumbs to turn downwards.
Luckily, as gamers and consoles matured, so did the storytelling. Every console on the market today has the ability to showcase Hollywood quality scripts, acting and special effects. A game like Metal Gear Solid 4 for the PlayStation 3 has 90 minutes of story that you watch after you complete the game. No longer is there a need for any interpretation of a story to another medium.
It appears that comic books are the new video games in Hollywood’s eyes, and thankfully Christopher Nolan came along and made a template for producers to follow in order to respect the source material and fans. Gone seem to be the days of adapting the over-the-top, hard-to-fit-into-our-world adventures like Final Fantasy and Doom, as some film makers have taken Nolan’s gritty, realistic approach to filming and had some success with adaptations of games like Max Payne, Hitman and Resident Evil.
– The Jolly Gamesman