Currently, Nintendo and Illumination The movie Super Mario Bros. is 56% on Rotten Tomatoes (compared to 54% when I checked earlier today). That’s a “rotten” score by RT’s metrics, and it takes getting up to the mid-60s to get “fresh.” (See reviews here).
But here’s the thing: most gaming and entertainment critics seem to like the movie. Most of the negative reviews seem to be written by non-gaming reviewers who have no affection for the games and the characters. To me, that suggests this is a video game adaptation aimed directly at its intended audience. If that means some non-gamers and non-Mario fans get lost along the way. . . so be it. I’m sick of adaptations that try to please everyone and lose what makes the original source material so great in the process.
Grace Randolph, discussing the film on her YouTube channel Beyond The Trailer, describes the film as “Totally inaccessible for non-fans of this Nintendo Super Mario game. Fans might even struggle with the nonexistent, outdated, and somewhat offensive story… A shocking misfire for Illumination, the only bad movie they’ve ever made. She adds that “word of mouth is going to be toxic”.
Randolph is a popular YouTuber and reviewer, but she admits she’s not a Nintendo fan and doesn’t play games. And I’m sorry, as entertaining as she is, she clearly doesn’t know her Mario Bros. at all. She didn’t even know Mario turned into a cat, which Mario did back in the Wii U days. So is being upset about Bowser kidnapping Peach and trying to marry her. . . quite central to almost every Super Mario Bros game! But Randolph thinks it’s inappropriate for children and outdated and offensive. This is the story of Super Mario go all the way Grace!
Still, some fan reviewers of the games were disappointed. “It’s disappointing that Super Mario has not only been shrunk and molded to fit the unambitious and nonchalant Illumination brand, but is also generic and soulless, cutting through as much fan service as possible,” writes Robert Kojder of Flickering Myth.
While praising the many Easter eggs in the film, SuperHeroHype’s Luke Y. Thompson laments that “the film is just a collection of Easter eggs and references in search of a story”.
Other reviews are mostly positive but continue to criticize the film for lack of story. Austin Burke in his YouTube video says, “This huge world is interesting, the score is nostalgic and the nods are so much fun. Plus, Pratt is surprisingly good as Mario. The downside comes from the pacing and the inability to make the overall story interesting.
However, many reviews are absolutely glowing. Variety’s review by Owen Gleiberman calls it “the rare video game movie that gives you wacky video game buzz” while IGN calls it “an animated fantasy fireball” and The Verge trumpets: “The Super Mario Bros movie is the new gold standard for video game movies.
Critic Charles Pulliam-Moore writes:
“Watching The movie Super Mario Bros., it’s impossible not to imagine what it could be like to one day play such a visually rich game running on hardware that puts the current-gen Nintendo Switch to shame. That’s probably (part of) why the movie exists. But as big budget commercials for video games and consoles roll out, The movie Super Mario Bros.going to be undefeated for a while.
I’m going to the cinema tomorrow with my kids and I see it on the biggest screen available, although it’s probably a lot of fun in 3D too. I’ll be back here on my blog and on my YouTube channel with my thoughts.
I saw recently Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Thieves and I loved it. Read my review right here.
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