This Ain't No Game, It's a Live-Action Thrill Ride!
This is the video game movie that everybody loves to hate. Why? Because it took our beloved Super Mario Brothers and turned it into a bizarro cyberpunk weirdfest.
The movie was released in 1993, and was written by Parker Bennett, Terry Runte, and
Ed Solomon. It was directed by Annabel Jankel, Rocky Morton, Roland Joffé, and Dean Semler.
Mario and Luigi are, of course, plumbers in New York City, and they can’t seem to get a job. Daisy is a college student who’s working on an archeological dig that stumbles onto a gateway to
another dimension. In this dimension, the dinosaurs did not die out — in fact, following the anthrocentric view that most filmmakers dealing with evolution subscribe to, they’ve evolved into humans. Their world is called the Mushroom Kingdom, after the (unexplained) fact that some of the people there evolved from mushrooms. The brutal overlord of this world is (as you may remember from Super Mario canon) Koopa, the evil mastermind who overthrew the Mushroom King years back.
This is where the similarity to the games ends. The filmmakers apparently decided that the games were actually just meant to be a metaphor. The games are smashed, burned, and a mushroom gravy is poured all over the ashes. Then a cyberpunk dystopia is sculpted out of the resulting goo. Koopa is not a turtle — he merely evolved from dinosaurs. He is not a king — he is a maniacal general in charge of a military junta which controls the police state that once was the Mushroom Kingdom. Goombas are not little mushroom guys — they are the results of Koopa’s program of torture, brainwashing, and deëvolution. Toad is not a mushroom person — he is a street performer arrested by Koopa’s thought police and transformed into a Goomba.
Mario and Luigi stumble into this world of horror, fear, and S & M dance clubs — an interesting touch for a film pitched as a children’s movie. They must rescue the Princess, kill Koopa, and restore peace to the Mushroom Kingdom — but they won't do it the way you think.
If you are looking for a movie anything like the games, the live-action television show, or the cartoons, stay away! You will be disappointed.
I have to say, I like this movie. I don’t like it as a good movie, or even a good adaptation of Super Mario Brothers. I like it as one of the ballsier bad movies that I’ve ever seen — it takes a world which the target audience knows intimately and loves, and turns it into something strange and unpleasant. It's halfway between one of those unpleasant shock art pieces and a 200-man committee's adaptation of Neuromancer. If you see it, see it with some good friends, and be prepared for something
If you enjoyed this writeup as well as painful nodevertising, check out Super Mario No More.