SuperMario Bros. movie match-up



By Oliver Gerharz

A month ago The Super Mario Bros. Movie (2023) had the most successful opening weekend ever for an animated film, breaking a perceived industry curse on film adaptations of video games. 

The Super Mario Bros. Movie (2023) (which will henceforth be referred to as Mario 23), is an animated film that follows Mario (Chris Pratt) after being transported to the Mushroom Kingdom and separated from his brother Luigi (Charlie Day) while traveling through a green pipe deep in the Brooklyn sewers. In the Mushroom Kingdom, Mario teams up with Toad (Keegan Michael-Key), Princess Peach (Anya Taylor-Joy) and Donkey Kong (Seth Rogan) to save Luigi from Bowser (Jack Black).

This movie was Nintendo’s first attempt at a movie featuring their star plumbers in thirty years. The reason it’s been so long? The original performed so poorly that it set the aforementioned industry curse. The live-action Super Mario Bros. (1993) (which will henceforth be referred to as Mario 93) follows Mario Mario (Bob Hoskins) and Luigi Mario (John Leguizamo) as they travel through a strange dystopian city called Dinohattan to save Princess Daisy (Samantha Mathis), who has been kidnapped by King Koopa (Dennis Hopper). 

Having seen Mario 23 shortly before Mario 93, the viewing experience was truly surreal. Compared to the polished and highly self-referential Mario 23, Mario 93 wasn’t exactly faithful to the source material, presenting an entirely original story. Mario 93 has the Mario brothers whisked away to a parallel dimension where dinosaurs that have evolved into humans live (they were sent there after the meteor hit).

That absurd concept, introduced through a short animated segment at the movie’s beginning, is just the tip of the iceberg for the absurdity of Mario 93. This meteor is incomplete, and its completion will merge the two dimensions. However it can’t be completed without the small piece that Princess Daisy wears around her neck. You see, Princess Daisy was left on the step of an orphanage in New York as a baby, where she then hatched from her egg (she’s a dinosaur). 

The evil minion duo of Iggy (Fisher Stevens) and Spike (Richard Edson) are a hilarious highlight of the movie, from kidnapping several random women instead of Princess Daisy by accident to later in the film when they are evolved by Bowser into “smarter” dinos (they still act dumb, but they start to talk smart).

In contrast to the madness of its predecessor, Mario 23 keeps things grounded in a story that feels right out of a Mario game. 

There were admittedly some parts of the movie that subverted my expectations, like Luigi being kidnapped instead of Peach and Mario not liking the taste of mushrooms. What made the movie really worth watching for me were consistent subtle nods to the source material — mainly in the form of a soundtrack that pays constant homage to the music of Mario games. I found that little jingles from and nods to games I’d played made the movie feel more connected to Mario than its predecessor.

While the movies are very different, one thing they shared was a disappointing third act. Though some aspects of Mario 23’s finale were strong, it was jarringly more fast-paced than the rest of the movie. There was the impression that there was supposed to be more movie and adventure with Mario and Donkey Kong in-between their first encounter with the antagonists and the final confrontation.

 On the other hand, Mario 93 just feels like it loses focus once the titular brothers enter Dinohattan’s version of the Twin Towers, which serve as King Koopa’s base and the main setting for the third act of the movie. Despite a lack of energy and a strange tendency to abandon and pick up plot points, Mario 93 has a very satisfying final battle between Mario and King Koopa.

I found Mario 93 to be a movie worth celebrating for the lack of care it applied to the valuable Intellectual property (IP) it was built around — the level of total disregard for such high-level source material allowed a very creative and novel story that will likely never happen again with how careful companies are with their IPs in modern times, that carefulness in huge part due to this movie. Also, the movie was genuinely laugh-out-loud hilarious all the way through — Mario and Luigi are a complete comedic duo with their catchphrase that they only start saying halfway through the movie and are then written as if they were saying the whole time: “glug glug glug glug glug glug glug.”!