Nostalgia and Adventure in The Super Mario Bros Movie

Rating: 3 out of 5.

It seems incredible that 30 years have passed since the Super Mario Bros video game was first adapted until a new attempt came to the big screen. The disappointment of 1993 was indeed a major one, but it’s still intriguing that such a strong and highly-ranked character was in the on-deck circle for so long. The Super Mario Bros Movie (2023) is the new bet from Illumination Studios. Under the umbrella of Universal Pictures Illumination has created franchises such as Despicable Me, Minions, and Sing. Now with the character of Super Mario, they seek to establish a new franchise in the realm of animated films.

With the eyes well set on a long-term strategy, the studios hired Matthew Fogel (The Lego Movie 2, Minions: The Rise of Gru) to write the script. Fogel walks familiar paths, imbuing the film with the light but daring tone that has become a trademark of this studio’s films. As is often the case with characters who have large legions of fans, there’s always the challenge of connecting with those fans.

In the case of Super Mario Bros, the task is even more challenging since that legion of disciples is quite heterogeneous. We are going to find those who have childhood memories with the consoles and that pixelated two-dimensional character jumping and running to save the princess. Then those who were touched by an era of three dimensions and high-definition flat screens and even those who only know it thanks to tablets and mobile devices. Thus, Mario has transcended generations and has remained embedded in the popular imagination.

The Super Mario Bros Movie successfully manages to please its varied audience. The story does not take risks and clings to traditional codes to approach the script. The original video game is the classic story of the unlikely hero who will have to find the courage to overcome adversity and rescue the damsel in distress. In the film, our Mario walks the well-known path of the hero with its ups and downs until consecrates himself at the end as the savior. Within these lines, the film takes the opportunity to explore sub-themes such as family, teamwork, and resilience as a method to overcome obstacles.

Another resource that the film uses very well is the references to the character’s origins and those video games that made him a legend. From the most subtle sounds and visual effects to the most descriptive such as the “Punch-Out” pizzeria in honor of the Nintendo video game “Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out”. Also, in a sequence, we can see Mario playing “Kid Icarus” another Nintendo product from the 80s. We should also scrutinize the self-references to other video games in the Super Mario franchise such as the rainbow sequence that is inspired by one of the elements of the game “Mario Kart”. All those nods point squarely at nostalgia, and they do so effectively.

An hour and a half of pure adventure and fun is offered in The Super Mario Bros Movie with Bowser who is an ideal and effective villain who fights against the trident made up of Mario, Luigi, and Princess Peach. Visually and artistically very well designed, the film combines the classic essence of video games with the aesthetics and modern standards of animated films.

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