Joysticks and Popcorn


Mario and Luigi

It could be said that the videogame industry is the new Hollywood. Actors such as Keith David, Seth Green, and Patrick Stewart, not to mention celebrity voice actors such as Stephen Fry, are all jumping at the chance to offer up their acting skills to a medium in which no one will ever even see their faces.

In the last twenty years, things have begun to come full circle, and we’re beginning to see fewer videogames based on films, and more films based on videogame titles instead. Recent cinematic adaptations have been poorly done, such as Max Payne, a film that should have been an action flick interspersed with some dark, twisted dialogue reminiscent of Sin City. Instead we got two hours of people talking, the occasional gunshot, and a demon/angel creature that has never featured in either of the videogame titles, which were based completely in reality.

I could be one of those columnists who lists the "top ten worst cinematic videogame adaptations", but I find those articles don’t serve the purpose of making a specific point very well, revolving round each individual title only long enough to state an ambiguous reason as to why it was so poor in quality.

When I was around four, I had to go with my mother to see a film for her birthday. Naturally, being a toddler I chose to go and see something I wanted to see, and as our birthdays are but forty-eight hours apart, this didn’t pose too much of a problem. The film we went to see went on to become the most infamously twisted reincarnation of a videogame in cinematic history; Super Mario Brothers.

Now, when I was four, the film was the best thing I’d ever seen, and I loved every second of it. However, a full sixteen years, twenty-plus Mario-themed games and two Nintendo consoles on in my lifetime, it’s a nightmarish memory simply for the huge, huge changes in the universe and narrative that led to its intended "appeal" to the audience.

Back in the nineties, the public couldn’t have spared many thoughts for Mario and his Mushroom Kingdom pals. The Wii wasn’t around, Nintendo was still pleasing the hardcore gaming audience, and films like The Goonies were still popular. Everyone loved a good old ninety minutes of paper-mache stone temples and people running around in silly outfits.

You’d think the Mushroom Kingdom had the biggest potential of any gaming universe at the time; a huge world populated by talking mushroom-headed midgets and child-like turtles with big, smiling faces, ruled over in part by an innocent, heart-of-gold princess, and an old, evil-but-not-really dragon king. Classic fantasy stuff, no? Apparently, this was all garbage, said the film industry. We need something more "nineties."

First off, Mario and Luigi were no longer living in the Mushroom Kingdom. They were, in fact, living in New York. Fundamentally, this is quite a clever idea, and as I write this I think about how amazing the film could have been had they set it all in New York, replacing Bowser with a drug lord and adapting it to become a pipe wrench-wielding combat fest.

So, the two brothers meet up with some women at a bar, as men in New York are supposed to do; so Sex in the City tells me, anyway. This meets with some obvious questioning of the film’s loyalty to its source material; wasn’t Mario in love with Princess Peach since the beginning of time? Even when they were children, as stated in Yoshi’s Island? The girls go missing in the morning, and the lads go looking, finding their way into the Mushroom Kingdom by following the girls through a wall made of malleable sandstone.

Ignoring this bizarre prop, the Mushroom Kingdom is revealed to us, and looks like it would had Shigeru Miyamoto designed it while high on ‘shrooms (I crack myself up) and listening to the Nine Inch Nails. Industrial, polluted, and full of human beings, which in itself is odd, as to record there have only been three human beings in the Mushroom Kingdom, not several million. There are no toadstool servants, but one staple-mark of the franchise is present: the Goomba.


No, I’m not kidding you. This is what a Goomba looks like in the film adaptation, and in all honesty, I think they’re one of the most terrifying creatures I have ever seen in any medium. Gone are the days when Mario could jump on them, laughing at their foot-high stature while watching a giant centennial number emerge from their corpses. Now they’re more likely to break his legs.

Apparently, they’re mutated, brainwashed human beings, turned into foot soldiers for King Koopa. Not Bowser, King Koopa — another interesting thing to note, and it’ll make more sense in a minute. Bowser was too odd a name for the film-going crowd, so they opted to use his royal title, and turn him into someone resembling a cross between Hannibal Lecter and Hugh Hefner.

Just as we begin to lose all hope, Mario grabs a bit of equipment that allows him to finally jump as inordinately high as he does in the videogames: "jump boots." He uses these to bounce around and somehow save Peach’s father (I know, I know) from becoming a mushroom (I know, I know). Film ends, everyone’s happy, bar the four hundred videogame fans in the audience wondering what film they were watching, because it sure as hell wasn’t Super Mario Bros.

The thing about videogames is they make poor films unless you change them a lot. Having Bob Hoskins (Mario’s representative actor) run down a road jumping over small boxes and squashing bipedal angry brown rocks for ten hours while getting slightly bigger on occasion probably isn’t very entertaining. But it’s interesting to note that while we may moan about videogame adaptations of films (bar Wall-E; that game was awesome and I won’t have a word said against it), we’re lucky the film industry haven’t optioned too many titles yet. Halo and Gears of War may yet be amazing films, but hopefully Peter Jackson won’t place Master Chief in New Zealand, though I would love to see Elijah Wood playing a Grunt.

I’m sorry, videogame fans. The great film adaptation of Super Mario Bros. is in another castle.


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Author: Christos Reid View all posts by

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