Luigi: Blockhead Mario.
Beware: Spoilers may follow.
In 1993 we got the first movie adaptation of the classic Super Mario Bros video game. At least we thought that was the first one. Seven years prior, however it turned out there was another animated Super Mario Bros only released in Japan. Although obscure, it can be seen as a definitive adaptation far more than the live-action movie.
The story involves Mario and Luigi going on a quest to rescue the beautiful Princess Peach from the clutches of King Koopa who wishes to marry Peach. In order to defeat King Koopa and save the princess, the Mario Bros. must gather three powers along the way: the mushroom of strength, the flower of courage, and the yellow star of invincibility.
The story is rather simple without much of depth or development. It’s rather meta in trying to make it game as Mario and Luigi quite literally get sucked into an Famicom game. But it stays true to the source material in having many elements that would make it feel like a Super Mario Bros. movie from the game. It very much takes the plot of the game and does well enough in translating it to film without it feeling like a mere instruction guide. It is quite admirable that the movie manages to bring to life many enemies and stages from the games in an original manner. But the formula is rather repeated until they reach Bowser’s castle and it can get rather boring and tedious. The original games had a repeated formula but it got harder with each level. This doesn’t have that same sense. With the movie being only an hour long, a lot of it can feel like padding. While Mushroom Kingdom is shown as a place of many surprises there are just so many oddities that it just feels overly weird. One of the other aspects that sticks out about the story is the ending which is a massive deviation involving Princess Peach being betrothed to another prince known as Prince Haru. On the one hand this is kind of a hilarious twist in vein of the “new quest” at the end of the original NES games. But it’s also pretty stupid in making the whole thing feel like for nothing.
The animation has uniqueness to it. The characters are expressive and have movements that give a good sense of energy and exaggerating which results in physical comedy and verbal comedy that is weird but one of a kind. The designs for the enemies are actually well done. They look the same as the original but the art style gives some of the characters their own spin, which allows for a unique look on the Mushroom Kingdom. The uniqueness is engaging but also somewhat odd. There’s no real sense to this world and it can be tough to get invested in as much as wonder “what the heck were they thinking?” At the same time it can lead to some creative visual humor. On the other hand there was not much time put into this movie and it shows through multiple animation goofs. The artwork very much looks like a TV show and much less a full fledged animated movie.
Mario and Luigi are given some levels of personalities. He can be hotheaded but determined to head into danger, which is pretty much, him from the game. Luigi is the comic relief. He has a different design and is pretty much Wario on the good side given that he is obsessed with collecting money along the journey. King Koopa is a lot less evil and comes off of more as goofy. Peach’s role is pretty much the damsel in distress. There are a couple of minor characters created solely for this movie but they don’t serve much purpose nor was anything in the Mario franchise inspired by them.
Super Mario Bros: The Great Mission to Save Princess Peach is mostly for fans of the original games. It was clearly not a very big movie and there is not much of a cinematic quality to it at all. To the movie’s credit though it does try to capture the spirit of the game, which is more than I can say for the 1993 version. It’s an odd movie but it’s the perfect kind of odd. Hopefully this movie can get a bigger following and can be associated more with the Mario Bros in cinema than the live-action version.