By: Russ Matthews
Since their introduction in the original Donkey Kong game in 1981, who could have guessed that Mario and Luigi would go on to influence generations of gamers?
Interestingly, their decades-long popularity in video games has yet to translate into cinematic success. This could be attributed to the dismal failure of the 1993 live-action adventure that has epitomised the challenges of translating video games to cinematic releases. Yet, Nintendo and Illumination have decided to give things another go and hope that the Mario Bros. franchise can bring audiences to the cinema.
After experiencing moderate success with Teen Titans Go! To the Movies, Aaron Horvath and Michael Jelenic have been given the wheel to drive this Mario Brothers production to its unknown fate. As they recruited an all-star voice cast of Chris Pratt, Anya Taylor-Joy, Seth Rogen, and Jack Black, they looked to be playing from the Lego Movie playbook of success. Their storyline takes the Brooklyn-based siblings from plumbing in the boroughs of New York City to the Mushroom Kingdom through magical pipeworks. Mario (Pratt) and Luigi (Charlie Day) get separated as they unexpectedly head towards different parts of this world that look like a video game-inspired realm. They learn that they must help Princess Peach (Taylor-Joy), Donkey Kong (Rogen), and the people of their prospective kingdoms to battle the fire-breathing Koopa named Bowser (Black).
What stands out from the opening sequence are two key components that set the stage for the rest of the film. The first is that Illumination has worked hard to develop an animated world that honours the game and proves they have become one of the foremost leaders in animation. Second, the creators of this film do all they can to show the ludicrousness and imaginative worlds that Nintendo has developed over the decades. These elements should give devoted players of Mario Bros. games the peace of mind that this version does all it can to represent the atmosphere that keeps them wanting more games. This film is for the fans, which may be suitable for some, while it proves to be tricky for those unfamiliar with the characters.
This is where it is difficult to put the finger on what is wrong with this film, but the words that come to mind are that it is not magical. Where The Lego Movie had a go at itself and did not take itself too seriously, this production tries so hard to remain faithful to the original stories they have made it inaccessible to those who do not play the games. Character development does occur for a time with the brothers. Still, the rest of the cast must rely on the audience’s awareness of their characters in modern folklore. For the non-gamer to know the significance of the boxes, stars, and many characters, most of the storyline leaves them lost in this world of imagination. Albeit cute and humorous at times, many of the jokes and references fly over the heads of those with less awareness of these worlds. This may leave some with the odd feeling of laughing at an inside joke told within a group of friends, but not knowing why this is funny.
Granted, The Super Mario Bros. Movie is visually stunning and does pay tribute to Nintendo’s legacy that should satisfy the devoted that love these games. Yet, this movie fails to engage a new audience or those who sit outside the gaming realm and are merely looking for an entertaining film for the family. This is where it may become a litmus test to see what portion of the world plays Super Mario Bros and are willing to come and see their heroes unleashed on the big screen.
REEL DIALOGUE: How loyal are you?
Loyalty is fascinating and confusing; it is defined as being faithful to something or someone. People will put their money, careers and lives on the line for loyalty to family, friends or countries. The Super Mario Bros. Movie hinges on allegiance, that of brothers, friends, and devoted mushrooms.
It begs the question, why do we choose to be loyal or faithful to someone else? It is rooted in wanting to place an implicit trust in the person we put our faith in and knowing that this loyalty will be reciprocated. The Bible plies a more profound meaning on the idea of loyalty. What can be seen is that God is the only one completely faithful. He is faithful even when his followers are faithless. The thing to consider is that with mankind, loyalty can be fleeting, but with God we can find absolute loyalty and someone true to their word.
A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother. – Proverbs 18:24
Article supplied with thanks to City Bible Forum.
All images: Movie stills
About the author: Russ Matthews is a film critic at City Bible Forum and Reel Dialogue. He has a passion for film and sparking spiritual conversations.