Nintendo video game perennials Mario and Luigi come to life as plumbers who are thrust into a parallel dimension peopled by the descendents of dinosaurs. It seems that the meteor that hit the earth 65 million years ago (in Brooklyn, no less) didn't kill the dinosaurs, but hurled them into a world in which they have developed into a species of intelligent humanoids. And it is up to the Luigi brothers to save Princess Daisy, and life as we know it, from the megalomaniac Koopa, who wants to merge the two dimensions and rule the world that will result.
Now I donít get why this movie gets pissed on so often. This is the ďBatman BeginsĒ or ďCasino RoyaleĒ of video game movies. Now granted, the quality of the overall film isnít anywhere near the formers, but the attempt is very much the same. Gritty. Realistic. Aimed for adults. Itís surely dated, but still. I guess this is one my own personal guilty little treasures. And Iíll be honest from here on outÖ
Alright. This puppy is the biggest problem of the film. Two plumbers from the real would have to travel in to a parallel dimension ruled by evolved humanoid dinosaurs to save the kidnapped archeological princess from itís evil dictator who wants to merge both dimensions and rule the world. Now as far out as that is, and itís pretty freaking out there, thereís not a moment on screen where I was like ďughÖ.come on. Are you kidding me?Ē short of the jump between the dimensions (falling through a milky way of colors). Itís somewhat mysterious how the hell everything is going on and thatís pretty much the idea. Weíre along with Mario and Luigi for the ride into this strange new world. The tone of the story gets a little too, well, dark this time. There are established tones that just ďfitĒ in adapted works. Batman is supposed to be serious. Superman uplifting. Bond suave and intelligent. Mario Brothers doesnít have to be cheesy or dark. But just, fun. Thereís a severe lack of ďfunĒ throughout most of the plot. And it never actually gets a steady story beyond the save Daisy/stop Koopa plot. No complications. No higher stakes. Itís like they threw the screenwriting book out the window, came up with two ideas and stretched it out as long as they possible could. The tone and the atmosphere is really what killed this movie for most people. For me, it just wounds it beyond all repair. Furthermore, the imaginative fun that is lacked is further reinforced by the dissent from itís source material of it the characters. Many of them turned into regular humans, or moronic dinosaurs when the original video game, surprisingly, had much more creative depth, and in retrospect, character depth than a lot of the supporting cast (of characters) in this movie.
Ok hereís a part you really cannot take issue with. Itís been said in interviews that Leguizamo and Hoskins repeatedly got drunk to help them get through the making of the movie. Surprisingly, I canít really notice.
Bob Hoskins Ė Mario: Short, moustache and kinda chunky. Works for me in appearance. Short fuse and very grumpy. I can enjoy it. I mean, itís not the Mario I know and love, but it works. Heís a funny grump. So yeah, it works.
John Leguizamo - Luigi Mario: Somehow, some screwball racist thought casting a Latin actor as an Italian wouldnít get recognized by mass audiences. ARE YOU KIDDING ME? Now granted, Leguizamo does a good job and Luigi is easily the most enjoyable character in the film. But stillÖ.this is almost as racist as Winston being left off both Ghostbusters covers.
Dennis Hopper Ė Koopa: For a humanoid Koopa, not one that I am particularly fond of, he does a good job. Now granted, the interpretation of the character is the fault of the writers and directors. What he does with what he has is very enjoyable. Heís the kind of villain thatís just so over the top that it makes such a dark action film a little more fun than youíd think.
The overall vision of a film is a directors fault. Now, Iím not one to be fond of multiple writers on a film, but at times, I can understand it. Two directors? Spare me. Itís hard to lack a solid tone as even though two people can believe they are on the same page, can be going in two different directions. While itís impossible to figure out who did what, part of the film is fun, and another part is incredibly boring. Iím inclined to believe that Annabel Jankel is responsible for the boring parts from what an old film professor once told me about women directors. But thatís a story for another time. Overall, the film suffers from 3 writers and 2 directors. In my experience, the less ďabove the lineĒ there is, the more consistency is in a piece. Thus this film tone going in tangents.
Cinematography & Production Design:
Weíre going to combine the two categories as this go around, they are so similar that they can be described in the same meaning. Grimy. Gritty. Dirty. ďRealistic.Ē Meh. Itís not fantastical or imaginative. Itís justÖ.real. Which, for a video game movie that should be intended for kids and teens (yet still enjoyable for adults) just doesnít work. It almost makes one think itís justÖ.cheap.
The film gets going pretty strong, but the editing stays very static for the remainder of the movie. The editing isnít based around emotion, or plot. Hell itís not even based off any kind of artistic idealism. Instead, itís just edited shot to shot. Nothing to really bring you into the film in one aspect or another. And from about 1/8 of the movie and onward, itís justÖ.there.
Alan Silvestri does a great job. Itís a great score. Very dramatic and poetic. Which are words I donít think I want to use in describing a Mario Bros movie. I mean, come on dude. You did Back to the Future. Have some fun with it. There are some redeemable aspects when it comes to the wacky Mario and Luigi theme and if he had expanded upon that it would have been fantastic. But nope. And my other big qualm, you canít incorporate the video game theme into the movie just once? Thatís the definition of a let down.
For the 90ís, it holds up pretty well if you ask me. I like it a lot more than I do nowadays. The ďrealisticĒ take works in the filmís favor in this aspect. The Visual effects are very 90ís, but I never really fall out of the movie because of it. But while the visual effects are great, the special effects are something else. Yoshi is probably the biggest ďhead to deskĒ moment of the whole movie. Many fans donít get to see that imaginative little dino, instead a baby T-rex. And the puppet they use ainít even all that cute. In closing:
The movie tries to be Blade Runner. Itís as simple as that. Sometimes you need to look at the source material when you adapt something to another medium and decide if the tone will work, or if it needs to be changed. As 2008ís Speed Racer proved (and I encourage you to check that movie out. I had to be dragged to see it, but I ended up enjoying it quite a bit) you can adapt something kiddy, and be imaginative and creative with it. You donít have to make it serious, you just have to take it serious. If you do, the drama will come through in itís own right. While this film isnít a comic to film adaptation, the same mentality is taken when creating it. Studioís take for granted the fan baseís knowledge of the archetypes established. If it ainít broke donít fix it. Sometimes we go to movies to see far away lands removed from our own. Sometimes we want to see movies that look like they were shot right outside our house. As creative artists, film makers need to have good judgment for their films. Sadly, those behind this film did not.