Updated: Jun 9
The Super Mario Bros. Movie, if you were anywhere near western online popular culture for the past year, you will have heard of this movie. If you went to the cinemas at any point in the last 3 months, you would have seen Illumination Studio’s ad for the movie. If you were following movie reviewers for the last month or so, again, you must have seen them talk about the movie.
Mario is a international icon of popular culture, so when a movie for this franchise came out it of course generated a lot of buzz. However, how good is the movie, as good as the reviews say? In this review, I will share my take on the movie, along with an issue I have with the release of the movie.
Talking point about the movie will only be of parts which were shown in trailers to avoid spoilers.
Visuals, Audio & Plot
We’ll start with the visuals, which is easily the 2nd best aspect of the movie! The environments crafted for the scenes in the move are vibrant yet don’t distract from the action. The shot compositions are also visually interesting, mixing close ups, wide shots & just enough camera movements that make the scenes capture just the right feeling they were aiming for!
The soundtrack of the movie is also really good sometimes. The use of Mario’s musical motif in some of the soundtracks manage to blend the cheery vibes of the Mario series with the at times more serious tones of the movie. However, Illumination Studios also chose some jarring modern pop music for certain scenes. While I personally didn’t mind it too much, to some reviewers it was a massive issue.
Now to address the biggest issue of the movie. The plot is extremely simple, the characters just move from point A to point B then point C so on until we reach the conclusion of the adventure. Characters have no personal motivation to go on the journey other than the goals set out in the plot, like saving the Mushroom kingdom. Being a Mario movie here also hurts the movie, as Mario story tropes bleed into the plot with no real reason for being there. Anyone with some knowledge of Mario games can easily guess where the plot is going around the halfway point.
Super Mario Bros.
Despite all the above though, a common sentiment of the audience is that they don’t mind, because ultimately they were here for one thing: the Super Mario Brothers!
The Mario references are everywhere! Background scenery, random monsters of the location, side characters & more are lifted directly from the Mario series. Some of the movie’s most impressive scenes are those that are heavily inspired by the Mario series, such as the side scrolling scenes & the Rainbow Road kart chase sequence!
One thing I personally love about their approach to integrating elements from the Mario games is the use of the various power-ups from the series. Appearing with no additional explanation creates a sense of a wider world with its own rules at play without overwhelming the script with exposition. This hopefully draws non-fans of the series in & turning them into fans of the series. This should be the main goal of any adaptation of a beloved IP, especially adaptations aimed at mass audiences, like Hollywood movies!
Delayed Malaysia Premiere
Now let’s talk about something outside the movie. The Super Mario Bros. Movie came out for Malaysian theatres on 19 April, and it was hotly anticipated by fans. However, the movie came out in the west 2 weeks before Malaysia, on 5 April. While it is true that a lot of movies, particularly those from Korea & Japan have delayed releases in Malaysia, this was the 1st western movie to have a delayed Malaysian premier in recent times.
To fans of the series hoping to watch the movie spoiler-free, this was quite annoying to deal with, as they had to navigate the internet extremely carefully during those 2 weeks. Even if you take care not to get click baited, content algorithms might straight up spoil the movie by recommending them a spoiler-full video thumbnail or image. It is painful to have a movie spoiled to you before you even have a chance to view it in any way.
GSC & TGV probably had their reasons for the delay, but I hope movie studios strive more to align international releases. This also goes to the Korean & Japanese film industry as well, who often don’t bother to start subtitling their movies for international release before their local releases
I highly recommend you watch the movie if:
A) You are a Mario fan.
B) You have children that want to watch the movie.
C) You like pretty visuals with no particular interest in plot.
The movie is a joyride for those that can enjoy it, as there is never a dull sequence. Even if you don’t like the movie, I think at no point will you roll your eyes either, as the movie, at the end of the day, is competently made and quite the treat to watch.