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Here's Why Chris Pratt's Super Mario Will Never Jump To The Heights Of The 1993 Film

Adapting any art form into a film is difficult. The general rule is to try and honor the source material while reinventing it for the screen. Of all the mediums to be given the film treatment, though, video game movies have had a tragic history. While there are exceptions, most of these adaptations have been poorly received by console connoisseurs and film buffs alike. 1993's "Super Mario Bros." might be to blame for this unfortunate trend, but that doesn't make it a bad movie.

Based on the beloved Nintendo franchise of the same name, "Super Mario Bros." was the first live-action video game movie. Starring Bob Hoskins and John Leguizamo as Mario and Luigi, respectively, the entire production was dogged by woes, ranging from numerous script rewrites to fallouts on the set. Furthermore, it seemed that the cast and crew had no reverence for the games as the film was more inspired by "Die Hard" and "Blade Runner."

Chris Pratt's upcoming "Super Mario Bros." movie looks set to honor the bubblegum sensibilities of the games. However, Rocky Morton and Annabel Jankel's ill-fated '90s blockbuster deserves credit for its creativity, special effects, biting satire, and total disregard for the colorful characteristics of the games. The new film might be more reflective of the source material, but it will need to jump to great heights to top the experience that is the 1993 movie.

Super Mario Bros. takes some creative risks, but it pays homage to the Nintendo games

It's true that the "Super Mario Bros." movie is often criticized for its lack of faithfulness to the source material. There are no bright skies, colorful cartoon landscapes, or bouncy mushrooms to be found. Instead, we are transported to a grim, murky, and strange alternate universe known as Dinohattan, which is ruled by fascist reptilian overlords and boasts a dystopian-steampunk aesthetic. On the flip side, fans of the film credit these stylistic choices as part of its charm.

Granted, it's understandable why the reimagined elements don't appeal to "Super Mario Bros." fans who prefer the whimsical nature of the games. When taken on its own merits, though, the movie is an action-packed, surreal fantasy yarn that provides a grown-up counterpart to the child-friendly console classics. Grannies are thrown from balconies, Mafia members are turned into chimpanzees, our heroes hit up the clubs, and the Goombas are downright creepy. The new movie will likely play it safe and aim to provide fun for the whole family, which is fine. But is it more interesting than tearing up the rulebook and turning gangsters into monkeys?

Of course, that doesn't mean that the first cinematic adaptation completely abandons the source material. "Super Mario Bros." is loaded with Easter eggs and passing references to the games, which are fun to try and spot.

Super Mario Bros. offers biting satire

"Super Mario Bros." doesn't portray King Koopa as the turtle-like rascal from the games. Instead, he's primarily shown as a humanoid (played by Dennis Hopper) until he regresses and exposes his reptilian roots. He's also an unapologetically evil politician who eliminates his opposition and harbors ambitions to merge his dimension with the human world. Koopa is the embodiment of dirty tricks and the consumer mentality, representing the dark side of unchecked capitalism and political power. Funnily, Hopper admitted that he only agreed to do the movie for the money, so he was the perfect actor to play a greedy figurehead (per The Guardian).

Dinohattan, meanwhile, is a degraded dystopia that's running out of natural resources due to Koopa and his cronies' exploitative practices. This can be interpreted as a commentary on pollution and the negative effects humans have had on the environment. Furthermore, the movie highlights these themes in hilarious ways, such as the poster of Koopa wielding a chainsaw while advertising him as an environmentalist. It's one of many moments that remind viewers that politicians will say anything to achieve their goals.

It remains to be seen if Chris Pratt's upcoming film will pack a punch in regard to topical commentary. However, the trailer does make it look like a lighthearted adaptation that will keep the political satire to a minimum.

Super Mario Bros. boasts impressive special effects

Directors Rocky Morton and Annabel Jankel had been experimenting with computer-generated imagery long before they accepted the reins to "Super Mario Bros." According to The Guardian, they created the first fully-CGI commercial for Pirelli tires before eventually shifting their focus to feature films. This caught the attention of producer Roland Joffé, who felt that their approach to technology would lend itself perfectly to the Nintendo adaptation.

The director pairing brought their forward-thinking mindset to the "Super Mario Bros." movie. They also hired experts such as visual effects designer and supervisor Chris Woods, digital animator/compositor Sheena Duggal, and software developer/animator Kevin Bjorke to assist them. As documented by Newsweek, it was the first film to use software known as Autodesk Flame, which has become standard practice in Hollywood. It also marked the first time that a movie used the Kodak Cineon film scanner and recorder for visual effects (via Befores and Afters).

The animation in the new "Super Mario Bros." movie does look impressive, but will the filmmaking techniques be remembered as groundbreaking? Probably not. The live-action adaptation, meanwhile, will go down in history as a revolutionary moment for VFX technology.

The everlasting cultural impact of Super Mario Bros.

As previously mentioned, "Super Mario Bros." was a revolutionary movie that deserves more praise for its accomplishments. Fortunately, there are fans out there who understand this and have gone to great lengths to preserve its legacy. Per Super Mario Bros: The Movie Archive, a semi-official extended cut of the film that features over 20 minutes of additional scenes was released in 2021. The new footage includes scenes in which Koopa turns a technician into slime, while Iggy (Fisher Stevens) and Spike (Richard Edson) rap about overthrowing the despot at the Boom Boom Bar. The project was a labor of love, brought to life by Garrett Gilchrist, Steven Applebaum, and Ryan Hoss (via Slate). 

The cast and crew have also warmed to the movie. To celebrate its 20th anniversary, John Leguizamo told SMB Movie that he's "proud of the movie in retrospect." When you consider the impressive career he's had since 1993, it's pretty neat that the actor still takes time out of his day to discuss "Super Mario Bros."

It's impossible to predict the long-term effect that the new "Super Mario Bros." movie will have on our society. However, it might be too tame and conventional to gain a cult audience who are as dedicated as the original's most passionate fans.