BLU-RAY REVIEW: SUPER MARIO BROS. / CERT: U / DIRECTOR: ANNABEL JANKEL, ROCKY MORTON / SCREENPLAY: PARKER BENNETT, TERRY RUNTE, ED SOLOMON / STARRING: BOB HOSKINS, JOHN LEGUIZAMO, DENNIS HOPPER, SAMANTHA MATHIS / RELEASE DATE: NOVEMBER 3RD
It may be a contentious point in certain circles, but 1993’s Super Mario Bros. is, by-and-large, the first live-action movie based on a video game, certainly the first with any real gumption. The film scrubs up nicely on its first UK Blu-ray release courtesy of Second Sight, letting old fans reminisce and bringing new ones into the fold.
It’s important to note that Super Mario Bros. always had cinematic intentions in mind, rather than just attaching itself to a famous franchise for monetary gains (it did flop, after all). This was years before the mould was set and Tomb Raider and Resident Evil movies were clogging up the box office.
For anyone familiar with any of the Mario titles, the story won’t come as much of a shock: save a princess from Bowser. What the movie does is theorise that the meteor that wiped out the dinosaurs sent them to an alternate version of the earth instead where they evolved into humans, bypassing the monkey route altogether.
The late Bob Hoskins brings a brilliant physicality to the lead role, fitting snugly into everyone’s favourite mushroom stomper, though he goes for a guttural drawl rather than imitating Charles Martinet. John Leguizamo might have seemed an odd choice for Luigi on paper, and despite the severe lack of moustache, he’s actually a dead ringer. Fisher Stevens and Richard Edson, like Laurel and Hardy, wonderfully bumble their way through the Koopa cousins Iggy and Spike, respectively. Dennis Hopper is charismatic as King Koopa, Bowser, putting a camp spin on his performance in Blue Velvet. Samantha Mathis makes for a decent Princess Daisy, but the less said about Mojo Nixon as Toad, the better.
One of the biggest surprises isn’t the film’s longevity or its (mostly) stellar cast, but just how well shot it is, with directors Annabel Jankel and Rocky Morton channelling Dune and putting a Terry Gilliam spin on the parallel universe, with characters decked out in Mad Max-style fetish gear. The soundtrack isn’t half bad either, with a Roxy Music cover, Megadeth, and Queen in tow.
Going for a more grounded slant than the magic realism that made the games so special, the Goombas have been made from devolved members of the parallel universe, and there’s mechanical boots that allow the wearer to jump to extraordinary heights and distances. There’s so many nods and winks, it’s dizzying, including Bullet Bills and Bob-ombs. The effects, especially the reptilian prosthetics, are especially good, even twenty one years later, with Yoshi living up to kawaii origins.
Despite its critical and financial failings, Super Mario Bros. is the very definition of a cult classic, proving to be a fun romp through a beloved game franchise mustering smiles on faces despite, or perhaps because of, the more realistic spin on the source material.
Special Features: 'This Ain't No Video Game' documentary / Making of / Original electronic press kit / Behind the scenes / Storyboard galleries
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