I first saw Super Mario Brothers (the movie) as a kid with my dad in the theaters. I hadn't gotten Super Mario Brothers (NES) until a few years after the system had originally came out, but nevertheless I still remember the classic original game as being immensely challenging yet enthralling (my god, beating that first Koopa dungeon, eesh).
So yeah, Mario was in. And a movie? Well shit.
When I first saw the film I was severely disappointed. This was not SMB!!! Where were the Toads? Where were the little turtle guys? And what the hell were all these dinosaurs doing running around?
Watching it again 15 years later, I recognize that SMB barely passes muster as a kids' flick, but as a bizzaro adult film it actually has some merit. What directors Anabel Jankel and Rocky Morton have created is a nice little dystopian film "based" on the characters from the Mario universe. It succeeds in that it manages to convince me, logically, that indeed the Mario games could be used as allegory for an anti-fascist ideology, but at the same time fails because, I assure you, the Mario games have NOTHING to do with anti-fascism.
But let's begin with the similarities. Some of the familiar SMB names are there: Mario, Luigi, Koopa (yes, if you recall, King Koopa was the prior nemesis to the more mainstay villain Bowser), Goombas, Iggy, Spike, Toad, and… Daisy? Yeah, that's right, the film goes with Daisy as the central princess rather than the more traditional Peach, leaving Mario (Bob Hoskins) to play something of a bald lady's-man. There are also some familiar set pieces such as the inside of Koopa's "castle" (actually a skyscraper, for reasons to be explained) which features those classic spiked blocks from the original games.
But while the names may sound familiar, the visualizations are completely, well, shall we say "reimagined." Mario and Luigi, by film's end, look closest to their VG analogs, but everyone else is essentially a humanoid version of their original VG incarnation. This is disappointing on the one hand as arguably the greatest strength of SMB is the icons it created (Koopa, Goombas, and Toad come particularly to mind).
Two plummer brothers, Mario and Luigi, perchance meet a young woman by the name of Daisy who just happens to be a princess from another dimension. They follow her into said dimension, a city-state surrounded by desert and ruled by a tyran King Koopa. Koopa wants to open a portal between his world and the "mammal" world via a special crystal shard in the possession of Daisy. Plot = set.
Koopa's world is a fascinating one. His main weapon is a "De-evolutionizer" which can either set its victims back millions of years in evolution or push them forward. With this weapon he builds an army of Goombas (fascist dinosaurs with small heads, bien sur) though also keeps a humanoid police force on hand when the plot calls for the occasional competency. All of the tell-tale signs of dictatorship are in place from the grungy underworld look of things to the "VOTE FOR KOOPA" posters plastered everywhere. The fascist Goombas even dance to elevator music because, like all fascists, they love synchronized movement!
Meanwhile we learn that Daisy is in fact a princess but that her father has been turned by Koopa into a giant fungus which overruns the city. This provides a very strange moment where Daisy meets her father (quite literally a fungal penis which descends from the ceiling and drips ooze. I am absolutely not kidding).
It's moments like these that make me sit up and say, "Interesting" while watching SMB. Unfortunately there are plenty other moments of faux-platforming achieved by the rotund Bob Hoskins and the moustacheless (???) John Leguizamo (Mario and Luigi respectively).
What the film lacks are the games' original charms: the cute characters and meaningless plot. Mario, frankly, is a tough franchise to adopt to film seeing as how the plot, 9 times out of 10, is irrelevant to the joy of the game. If you want to see a true Mario film-adaptation, check out the (also terrible) THE WIZARD. If you want to enjoy a Mario-esque dystopic critique of fascism, then SUPER MARIO BROTHERS just might be your cup of fungal tea.