Green Phoenix - Trailer Talk: The Super Mario Bros. Movie Teaser
In the annals of video game adaptations, few films stand quite as infamous as Super Mario Bros., released in 1993. Starring Bob Hoskins as Mario and John Leguizamo as Luigi, the film was bereft with strange directorial and production choices that left the film resembling nothing like its source material, an almost cursed production with terrible treatment of extras and cast-members, and a puzzingly inept interpretation of what should've been an easy narrative, all owed almost exclusively to the terrible writing and strange auteur-stylings of its married director team.
So terrible was this film that it actually turned Nintendo off from any future film adaptations of their properties until Detective Pikachu in 2019, to average but generally pleased reviews by audiences and critics. Thus when it was announced in 2018 that Nintendo was working to create yet another adaptation of their most famous property, people immediately took note, not entirely positive either.
This attention grew even higher when it was announced that Chris Pratt, the man who I have begun to refer to as the modern John Wayne (in that he only ever really plays himself in most of his films), would be voicing one of the world's most popular video game mascots. I, like the internet, was utterly shocked and befuddled by this choice, especially when Charles Martinet, the actual voice actor for Mario, wasn't even considered for the role. It left everyone anxious for just what kind of film Nintendo was willing to adapt to the screen.
Thus when the 2022 Nintendo Direct revealed the first teaser for The Super Mario Bros. Movie, the internet latched on with the force of a leech. With so much excitement, how could I not make it the subject of my next Trailer Talk?
Short answer? I couldn't. So let's take a look at the trailer and see what catches my attention.
The first thing that stuck out to me was actually just how good this movie looks. Say what you will about Illumination movies in terms of story and comedy, but all of them look amazing and this film seems to be no different. The character designs hearken back to Despicable Me in an almost distracting way while still managing to maintain a clear delineation as to who all the characters actually are. Bowser is recognizable, as is Mario, and Toad, at least from a visual standpoint.
Another immediately caught point was the comedic tone. The Super Mario franchise has always maintained a general attitude of meta-comedy and self-awareness that sometimes borders on parody, especially from Bowser. I think that Jack Black was absolutely perfect in his performance and will manage to capture both the inherent threat of the King of the Koopas as well as the general absurdity of the character that we see in examples such as the Mario and Luigi franchise, which I suspect this film will draw much more of its tone from than perhaps the "original" Super Mario Bros.. Though I do think that Keegan-Michael Key might very quickly grow to irritate me as Toad if they aren't careful to balance out his vocal inflections and comedic bits.
The teaser is, as you can very well imagine, fairly short and doesn't really show a whole lot from a narrative perspective. We see Bowser invade the Ice Kingdom run by the Penguin King, which is not only a hilarious little bit that seems to have tweaked the internet's funny-bone, but a genuinely good introduction to Nintendo's most famous villain. In a film like this, much like most Marvel and Disney movies, if the villain is good and entertaining, the movie will likely do well, even if the protagonist isn't very strong. If both were terrible, then we'd have a real problem.
On that note, let's talk about the element of the trailer that everyone was nervous about and what the teaser honestly didn't provide a great deal of comfort towards. Chris Pratt as Mario. Earlier I described Chris Pratt as the modern John Wayne. What I meant by this is that John Wayne was largely known for playing himself in most of his movies. While his character's absolutely had names and backstories, generally Wayne acted with the same general attitude and his characters' always ended up being referred to as John Wayne. I think that Chris Pratt really has reached this level of public notoriety as well. I know that most people might recognize him as Andy from Parks and Recreation but I think that a lot of people might know him as Chris Pratt in Guardians of the Galaxy or Chris Pratt in Jurassic World, rather than the individual characters in question. That's not to say that Pratt isn't a good actor, just one that is built on playing himself.
This is an issue with such an iconic character as Mario, who doesn't have much of a personalty in the games other than being heroic and whimsical, usually letting his brother Luigi take the lion share of personality (a trait the famous red plumber actually shares with Mickey Mouse in my opinion). Thus when Chris Pratt was cast in the role, it has the potential to paint Mario's personality with the same Pratt-ness that exists in so many other action films he's starred in, where he is the least interesting character in his own movie. And if MatPat is correct in saying that this is the start of a Nintendo Cinematic Universe then Mario could potentially become the least interesting part of his own cinematic universe.
As it is, what we got was...two lines of dialog that sound exactly like Chris. The character model is, as stated before, wonderful looking and exactly what I think a modern interpretation of Mario would have to be. And the voice is Chris Pratt. I think he may be putting on a slight accent, but at the end of the day its just not enough for me to say if the performance is good or not yet. I think everyone needs to seriously calm down and give it more time.
The same with Luigi, we got almost nothing from the far more popular of the two brothers (at least according to the internet). I think too many people are so eager to hate this movie, ironically because of the last Super Mario Bros. adaptation that they may be priming themselves for disappointment. Honestly, I think the film will either be very good, or at least incredibly entertaining. We'll see if a full trailer gives us more to go on when it is released in a few months time.
But what I see looks promising. Fun and colorful character and world design, good voice acting among the villains, but with some lingering concerns with the name-oriented, rather than talented-oriented, casting of the film's main lead leaves The Super Mario Bros. Movie something I am optimistically cautious for, if that makes sense.
I really want it to be good and I hope that Nintendo uses the experience to give us even more Nintendo properties in the future (Give me an adaptation of the general Legend of Zelda story Nintendo, please!).
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