It’s finally here. Well over four years after we found out that Nintendo was partnering with Illumination for a Super Mario Bros. movie, last night gave us our first glimpse of the partnership and it was… interesting.
From Illumination’s rendition of the Mushroom Kingdom through to Jack Black’s Bowser, Keegan Michael-Key’s Toad, Charlie Day’s Luigi and – of course – Chris Pratt’s not-so-novel take on Mario, there’s a lot to unpack. So here’s what Team Eurogamer made of the big Super Mario Bros. movie reveal.
‘Is this going to be an origin story for the brothers?’
So, after a lot of hype from a certain Mr. Chris Pratt, who assured us this trailer would blow our minds, we finally got the new teaser for Illumination’s upcoming Super Mario Bros. Movie and, I have to say, I kind of loved it.
Bowser looked like an absolute Boss with a capital B making his volcanic and egotistical entrance, the attempt at the penguins to defend their icy palace made me laugh, the koopa henchmen were as imposing but also as unthreatening as they are in the games (had slightly hoped to see one curl up into its shell and scoot back and forth across the ice, but you can’t win them all – I am sure we shall see some shell scooting in the film itself) and the Mushroom Kingdom looked absolutely jam-packed and beautiful.
As for Toad, he is quite the fire-cracker in this adaptation. That was a rather feisty intro from the small shroom man. Meanwhile, while it was more Luigi’s Mention than Luigi’s Mansion, I loved the small snippet of our green-clad plumber fleeing from an onslaught of Dry Bones. Characteristically, it felt spot on.
The one thing that really caught my attention about Mario himself however, was not his voice as, despite Pratt and Nintendo both hyping up how he will sound in the fim, we didn’t actually hear all that much from the moustachioed hero. As such, I am reserving any judgement about Pratt’s take on Nintendo’s beloved icon as I do not think there is enough to base my opinions on as yet. But, I am getting distracted… Back to that thing that caught my attention.
So, Mario doesn’t seem to know the Mushroom Kingdom in this film! Or Toad (although he knew Mario’s name… I guess they made introductions between the clips shown)! Or even, Peach! Does this mean that this take on Nintendo’s games is going to be an origin story for the brothers? And, if that is the case, where did Mario come from? Did he get sucked into that green pipe against his will? Or was there some otherworldly aura calling out to him that made him feel compelled to explore? I have a lot of questions, and I am looking forward to finding out more in the future.
One last thought before I go, that moment that Mario first found himself in the Mushroom Kingdom – was that an homage to Super Mario Galaxy’s ending?
‘I was feeling a sense of absolute dread ahead of our first proper look at the Mario movie’
It’s a bit silly, but I was feeling a sense of absolute dread ahead of our first proper look at the Mario movie. Silly because I care so much about a dumb fictional universe full of talking dinosaurs and mischievous mushrooms, and silly because I’m so damn invested in characters like Mario, Peach and Luigi. In my head there was a world before this trailer dropped and one after, because Nintendo would be forever changed once its iconic were put through the Hollywood mangler (not for the first time, sure – but the stakes feel immeasurably larger this time out).
So I sat down to watch it last night and… It was fine? Good, even! Leading with Jack Black’s Bowser was a masterstroke, since a perfect alchemy seems to have been found between the School of Rock star and Mario’s nemesis, while the Mushroom Kingdom looks simply incredible (and simply quite edible, really – Mario levels at their best look good enough to eat, as was the case here with what Illumination has done with Nintendo’s world). And Chris Pratt as Mario? Well frankly it’s hilarious how little effort he’s put into the character, though in truth that’s better than some forced Brooklyn accent – and it’s perfectly offset by how amazing Keegan Michael-Key’s Toad is (I watched the trailer again this morning with my daughter and he had her in stitches) as well as Charlie Day’s briefly glimpsed Luigi.
And now something funny has happened. Rather than dreading the next trailer for the Mario movie, I’m quite looking forward to it.
‘Oh man, it looks just like Mario 3’
I had pretty much forgotten this film was on the way, so the trailer was kind of a double gift for me. There’s a Mario movie coming! And it actually looks like Mario!
What’s weird is how much it looks like Mario. Not the Mushroom Kingdom as it exists in the games, but the Mushroom Kingdom as it’s existed in our heads since we started playing the games – the kingdom that the games could only hint at.
This is why I showed the trailer to my wife saying, “Oh man, it looks just like Mario 3.” I mean, it doesn’t – Mario 3 is an 8-bit game that delivers a 2D world. But the vibe, the vibe is perfect. Everything that Mario games have ever sort of suggested about the wider world feels like it’s going to be on the screen here. I’m into it.
‘”No,” I thought immediately. “No, no no no”‘
“Oh, this doesn’t look so bad,” I thought when the trailer first began. The ice world looks pretty enough, the penguins are finally getting their revenge after I threw them off a cliff too many times in Mario 64, and Jack Black playing the same role as ever is fitting for Bowser. I enjoyed his “dracarys!” moment.
But then Mario came in. “No,” I thought immediately. “No, no no no.”
The flat arse that couldn’t butt stomp if it tried. The human-like face with too many teeth. The voice. That’s not Mario.
But it’s probably not meant to be. It’s Chris Pratt the real life plumber who fell into a toilet and somehow ended up starring in a Mario movie. Perhaps it’ll end with a slow pan outwards, revealing the whole thing was just a dream inside Miyamoto’s head.
And who even is Mario anyway? Isn’t he just an avatar for the player to “wahoo!” and “waaaaah” across platforms? He has the least personality of everyone in the Mushroom Kingdom – just look at Keegan Michael-Key’s spot-on Toad for comparison. Perhaps Pratt’s lazy delivery is fitting after all.
‘It’s impossible to be offended by it’
Listen, it’s Mario. This is the default settings, medium difficulty, vanilla-flavoured Blue Lightsaber of video game franchises. It’s impossible to be offended by it. But. Chris Pratt doing a Paulie Walnut impression that comes out a bit more Boston Marky Mark is a no from me.
‘Mario as a character isn’t the draw of the games, not really’
I thought the trailer (teaser?) looked good, and I think Mario’s voice sounded… fine? We’ve only heard 12 or so words so far, so realistically, it’s impossible to gauge at this point.
The decision to lead with Bowser was inspired, considering the reaction so far – and cemented a slow realisation I’ve had since the cast reveal. Mario as a character isn’t the draw of the games, not really – it’s the world, and the likes of Toad, Bowser and Luigi that draw you in – and the small taste here captures the spirit of all that wonderfully. How this all translates into a full movie remains to be seen, of course, but whichever way Mario himself turns out, I’m cautiously optimistic about the whole endeavour.
‘I’m not sure if he’s trying to put on a bit of a New York accent, but whatever it is it’s not working for me’
I’ll preface this by saying that I don’t care that much for the Mario movie. That is to say, I probably won’t go to a cinema to watch it but I’ll catch it when it airs on TV in a couple of years’ time. There’s things that I dislike about what I saw from the trailer, but I always remind myself that it could be worse.
With this in mind, I’m letting myself be swept up in the hype (and the outrage) because I don’t really have any personal or financial stakes in it. After all, it could be worse, so here’s my completely serious and critical analysis of the trailer.
It looks good visually. I actually don’t mind the slightly more realistic art style. I love Keegan-Michael Key’s performance as Toad. If Toad had to speak words like a human, I think Key nails it. I’m excited to hear more of Charlie Day’s Luigi, too. I like Jack Black’s take on Bowser, though as his lines got longer I liked it less.
In fact, I pretty much didn’t mind everything apart from Mario. Chris Pratt’s Mario voice is lacklustre. I’m not sure if he’s trying to put on a bit of a New York accent, but whatever it is it’s not working for me. I also wish he had given it something, anything, to make his voice sound different to every single other role he’s ever played.
I don’t like the isekai plot trope, so the humour of most of the movie probably isn’t going to be my cup of tea.
But my biggest gripe with Mario is his looks. The slight tweaks to his face? Fine, I can deal with those. I could actually bring myself to tolerate the wider jaw they gave him. But the ass? THE ASS? Where is it? That’s not the Mario I love. I consider it an affront to humanity that they would not only nerf Mario’s ass, but completely nuke it from existence. His backside is so flat even flat-earthers are doubting it. I’m sorry Nintendo, but that’s not my MILF (the M stands for Mario).
But hey, at least it’s not Chris Pratt dressed up in denim overalls and a moustache. It could be worse…