Has the Mario Movie Broken the Video Game Curse, or is it Just Better Than Sonic?

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| April 20, 2023

After years and years of waiting, now the hour is at hand for us to rejoice, fellow gamers. Nintendo, having finally recovered from the… less than stellar reception of 1993’s Super Mario Bros., has returned from atop Mount Universal Pictures with this latest installment into the Mario pantheon that, at time of writing, includes multiple video games, television series, toys, board games and a legion of fanboys roughly of a size that could rival the Mongols.

As one of those self-confessed fanboys (sergeant major rank, thank you very much), I was excited to see the Mario movie but definitely had reservations. In my previous Couch Soup article on the subject, I wondered if the Mario movie cast was a cheap ploy from the producers to upstage the Sonic movie.

Having seen the movie, I can say that while some of the cast (*cough cough Chris Pratt cough cough*) didn’t add much to the overall experience for me, there were a few notable standouts that I couldn’t have loved more.

It’s not the greatest song in the world, it’s just a tribute.

But we’re getting ahead of ourselves, I hear you cry out. What’s the movie about? Do we get to see Luigi splatting rats? Do we get to see Bowser singing a love ballad to Princess Peach? To answer your questions in no particular order: no rats were splatted on screen, yes, he had a piano and everything (good guess), and c’mon, it’s Mario here. All the chess pieces are here, just shuffled around like deck chairs on the Titanic.

We’ve got Bowser wanting to marry Princess Peach, Princess Peach wanting to save the Mushroom Kingdom from Bowser. Mario and Luigi have their own plumbing business in Brooklyn that gets sucked into the Mushroom Kingdom via a mysterious portal… hang on, I’ve gotta sit down. I’m getting flashbacks to Dennis Hopper and dinosaur Yoshi.

I do like that they used some more outlandish elements of the Mario canon, like Bowser being more than an evil lizard monster and Princess Peach being more than a damsel in distress. I also like the fact that they managed to portray a lot of the character nuances that games like Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door and Luigi’s Mansion conveyed, as it gave the characters more depth and charm than the mainline Mario franchise has been afforded.

Bowser’s coming at you with his long-term liabilities baby!

Unfortunately, the character of Mario is not really one of the characters given a lot of personality apart from; wearing red, having overalls, and can jump, man. Luigi is the one given more personality and, subsequently, less screen time. I understand why they’ve done this. Mario is the vessel through which the audience sees the world and, as such, needs to be as broadly marketable as possible (like your Keanu Reeves or Luke Skywalkers).

It’s annoying when they could have explored the Mushroom Kingdom together instead of separating them. Sure, it robs the story of some drive for Mario to rescue Luigi, but surely you could get by with the “out of the goodness of their heart stick” I mean, that was good enough for everyone in 1985.

Like any great sporting team- Wait a second, what’s that noise? It kind of sounds like it’s coming from over there… sit tight, guys. I’ll go check it out; it shouldn’t take me that long…

Why hello there, itsa me, Thomas, barging my way into this article like Mario barged his way into the Mushroom Kingdom. Terrible comparison aside, I actually found The Super Mario Bros Movie to be a nostalgia-fueled fun time. I had no expectations going in, not even about the voice cast (I was a little cut about Charles Martinet not voicing Mario, but it is what it is). I found almost every aspect of the film to be enjoyable on some level. I was skeptical of Chris Pratt like everyone else, but he did a decent enough job to where if I didn’t know it was him, I would’ve believed they grabbed a guy from the Brooklyn streets. Jack Black was also perfect casting for Bowser, but that’s already been praised to death, so I’ll leave it at that.

Now that’s a good looking pipe. (Nintendo)

The part I was most curious about when it came to this film was how it would handle adapting the staples of the Mario series. After seeing the film and thinking about it for a week, I think they did a fairly decent job. The classic power-ups, such as the mushroom and fire flower, are depicted just like the games (with sound effects and all). They even included the catsuit from 3D World, which I didn’t expect. There were actually a lot of things from 3D World in this film. Besides the catsuit, there were the clear pipes, and even some locations looked like they had been ripped straight from the game. I think the inclusion of Mario Kart and Smash Bros may have been a tad overkill, but they did make for fun set pieces. All in all, I had a fun time with the film, and I think it did a fairly decent job at adapting the multitude of Mario games for the big screen.

Couldn’t find anything wrong, and the noise just stopped, so I guess everything’s alright. Now where was I… oh hey Dan, what did you think of the movie?

As a long-time Mario fan, I was cautiously optimistic about this new animated movie for the beloved plumbers and gang. I was also worried that with a relatively short run time of 92 minutes or 1 Hr and 32 minutes,  it would be difficult to fit much love and care into this film. Thankfully, I was proven very wrong. For me, the SMB movie was a joy and delight to experience. It made my inner child jump and wahoo for joy. It did a perfect job of rekindling what I remember feeling as I went on adventurous with my friends Mario and Luigi through the mushroom kingdoms, discovering powers and secret areas, and defeating koopas, all while jumping my heart out. The run time wasn’t an issue either, as the movie moves along briskly and never lingers on any scene for too long.

This film also canonizes (is that a word?) all of the Mario games and opens up so much potential for sequels. Rohan, Tom, and I already have a lot of theories that may be for another article. I was particularly happy with Luigi and Charlie Day’s performance, which included a scene that felt straight out of Luigi’s Mansion. “Insert gif of Leo DiCaprio pointing at screen”. I need a Luigi’s Mansion movie now too.

Compared to the Sonic movies, like the games themselves, they hit a different chord. Where the Mario movie is fully animated, the Sonic movies take place in the real world and adapt those characters in a unique way. I love both of them for different reasons, and I am happy about that. I am happy to have GOOD video game movies, period.

Thanks, Dan! Anyway, where was I at the start of all this… oh yeah.

Like any great sporting team, any discussion about Mario cannot be complete without a comparison to its greatest rival – a spiky blue hedgehog that’s had more ups and downs than the Green Hill Zone. While Sonic’s movie was released first, I have to say that both these movies feel like an allegory for the Nintendo & Sega console war of the nineties.

Sonic is like the Sega of the nineties – sparks of ambition and greatness surrounded by some frustrating and flabergasting decisions trying to differentiate itself from Nintendo. The movie is a fun ride, especially with Jim Carrey hamming it up and watching it, I could sense a lot of love for this character that, despite all the mishaps and Sonic 06’s, is still a gaming icon all these years later. However, like the Sonic games, there are some rough edges, like the references to pop culture that is going to age like spoiled milk.

Exhibit A for “aging like spoiled milk”

On the other hand, Mario’s the Nintendo of the nineties – consistent quality, broad marketable characters with hints of some deeper characterization, and darker comedy than you would otherwise suspect but none of those imperfections makes Sonic more interesting to discuss. Will it break the video game curse? As I mentioned in my article about video game movies way back in the day, that curse is never going to be broken because of the fundamental difference between how video games and movies are experienced by the audience.

So has the Mario movie broken the video game curse? No, I wouldn’t say that. Is it better than the Sonic movie? Depends on who you ask. For my money, yes, I think it is better than the Sonic movie.

Have you seen the Super Mario movie? What did you think of it, and do you think it has broken the video game curse? Let me know in the comments section below.

Be sure to check out Dan’s articles for Couch Soup here.

Be sure to check out Tom’s articles for Couch Soup here.   

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One comment on “Has the Mario Movie Broken the Video Game Curse, or is it Just Better Than Sonic?”

  1. Sonic 2 got let down by it’s weird obsession with it’s human characters and B plots that seem like they’re from another movie I feel. I love the Mario movie 😀

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