Monday, 16 November 2015

Narrative - Super Mario Bros film review

Fig. 1. Super Mario Bros poster.

Super Mario Bros (1993) is a live action adaptation of the video game, directed by Annabel Jankel and Rocky Morton which mostly deviates from its original source. The film itself breaks away from many of the rules that are set by the brand that is Super Mario, thus creating a strange world in which a plot that feels reminiscent of a B movie is formed.

Adapting a video game to a film possesses many challenges, for one the film still needs to abide by the rules that the game sets in place for it to feel like it still belongs in the world that the game created. The Super Mario Bros film however just takes influences from the game as it pleases and creates its own world and story with them in it. It kept some themes in the film, such as rescuing the princess and the final fight being situated on a bridge however the game and the film feel like two separate worlds.

Fig. 2. Mario and Luigi still.

The characters in the film have been changed from what is expected due to the game, to start with they use Daisy instead of Peach as the princess, they also add a backstory of her being hatched from an egg which doesn’t appear in the games. They keep true to her love interest being Luigi, but apart from that she feels very distant to the game character that is rarely seen. The main villain in the game is Bowser a giant lizard like creature who kidnaps the princess; however in the film Bowser is replaced with a humanoid character called King Koopa who wants princess Daisy and the stone she carries with her, to merge the dimensions together. As a character he doesn’t feel as powerful as Bowser seems in the games, Bowser is much bigger than Mario in the games which creates a clear distinction of power, however the films make him seem quite weak. Interestingly the two main characters Mario and Luigi have a very different dynamic in the film, Mario appears more as a fatherly figure for Luigi instead of being there as his brother. This is very confusing as it is hard to understand if Mario is in fact Luigi’s father or he just acts like it, which again is something that isn’t true to the game.

Fig. 3. Environment still.

The environment is very strange in the film as well for a few reasons; the start of the story is based in Brooklyn which is strange in the Mario world as their world is the mushroom kingdom. It could be that the film adds the real world to make it easier to connect with the audience; it appears that this doesn’t quite work successfully. It adds a strange mundaneness to what is in sense a fantastical world and then it introduces you to the mushroom kingdom, which in the film is another dimension. This version of the kingdom is very much a dystopian nightmare that could appear in other film worlds such as Mad Max. This dystopian kingdom is very far from what the game displays as the fantastical mushroom kingdom and this in turn changes how the world is perceived. The games are all quite bright and magical in a sense, which makes the game enjoyable and interesting for children whereas the films choice of environment makes it aim for an older target audience. One successful part of the dystopian kingdom was the signage, they has flashing signs like Vegas that were direct reference to stuff inside the game, they had signs like ‘Bullet Bills’ and ‘THWOMP’ which appeared to be the most successful tribute to the game.

The film added multiple things to the world that didn’t exist prior, like there being two dimensions that separate the real world from the mushroom kingdom and rocket boots that allow the user to jump higher. They also altered the cannon fodder in the film, they made them into giant dinosaur like creatures that have little to no intelligence. In the game there are variations of monsters and they are usually smaller than Mario, whereas the film made them all giant idiots. It is possible that these additions remove the charm from the Mario world, the world which plumbers can jump higher than usual, the world in which Mario and Luigi live.

Fig. 4. King Koopa still.

Without the implementation of the game mechanics in the film, it appears that it strays too far from the world in which the game created. This is due to some vital elements being changed; the fact that to beat the enemies they don’t jump on their head is a huge difference that makes the film distant. The power ups that are received in game, such as the fire flower or mushroom don’t appear in the film, which again is something that ruins the film. It could be that the most disappointing aspect of the film is Bowser being human, it just didn’t have the same impact that the big lizard like creature could have had.

Overall the film isn’t a very successful adaptation, it feels as if the film is confused about who it should be targeted for. With missing characters and changes to the characters that are involved it makes it difficult to appreciate the film and find a clear link to the game, minus of course the names. By missing out the main features of the game the film sets itself up to be rather disappointing, from the terrible B movie storyline to the completely unfaithful environment and character design, this film is definitely a failed attempt at making a beloved video game icon into an epic film.

Illustration List:

Jankel, A. Morton, R. Figure 1. Super Mario Bros poster.,0,214,317_AL_.jpg (Accessed on 16/11/2015)
Jankel, A. Morton, R. Figure 2. Mario and Luigi still. (Accessed on 16/11/2015)

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