In Defence of – Super Mario Bros (1993)

Greetings My Movie Geeks!

Movies: You either love them or hate them. I myself seem to love most movies, even when they are crap. During the Halloween Countdown, Mrs Movie Geek mentioned that she wouldn’t give a movie Zero Stars or Pumpkins, because work has gone into it. Even the worst movies have had hours of work put into them. I now happen to agree. We look at films that have negative reviews and even a cultural hatred towards them. But I will try to defend these movies by looking at what it has. What it was trying to do and most of all if they are fun. In conjunction with my YouTube Channel’s – In Defence Of, I will be publishing the articles at the same time.

Today I’m going to Defend Super Mario Bros from 1993.

The Story

The 1993 film was an adaptation of the side-scrolling video game Super Mario Brothers. It cast British actor Bob Hoskins as Super Mario, and John Leguizamo as Luigi. They are two New York Plumbers who are needed to help stop the flooding of an archaeological excavation.
The excavation is for a meteorite that made the dinosaurs’ extinct. And we come to the first contentious point of the movie. The introduction is of some extremely bad, (and they are) Computer-generated dinosaurs. This must be for the kids? A quick depiction of the extinction of the dinosaurs, which kids can enjoy and not realise that at any moment our world can be wiped clean via a large falling rock.

Judging by the rest of the film, this seems out of place and slightly redundant. It doesn’t come back at any point; it’s just a way of depicting the destruction of the dinosaurs. But other than this, there are good parts, I promise.

We meet the Plumbers as they announce that they’re being put out of business by the Mafia led Scapelli Construction. This thread doesn’t really go anywhere apart from a few mentions throughout the film, and the fact they flooded the dig site. Scapelli appears at the end of the film to be devolved into a chimpanzee, or as Dennis Hopper says “Monkey”.

Save the Princess

Luigi meets Daisy and they go on a date. When they discover Scapelli’s have started to flood the dig site, they get Mario to stop the flooding. This is where the Princess is kidnapped. Iggy and Spike, the comic relief characters knock the Mario Brothers out and take Daisy through a portal. The plumbers quickly wake up and follow Daisy’s screams following her through the portal. All the game elements are there, but they’re just in a slightly different order. Portals, kidnappings, plumbers, these are the basics of the Super Mario games.

The story is simple. Save the Princess. None of the main characters know she’s a princess yet, not even Daisy, but it’s exactly the same story as the games. Well, minus the cake baking! You have a story that shows the subjugation of the Mushroom Kingdom. The king has been turned into fungus and there is an army of Goombas enforcing Koopa’s laws. There’s also the threat of devolution if you disobey. Life for the Mushroom Kingdom in the games seemed to be fairly normal. Yes, there are Goombas everywhere, and the Princess has been kidnapped, but everything else seems OK. Also, Mario doesn’t seem to see the Goombas as a problem as in the game Mario literally stamps on their heads, because he’s a cold-blooded killer!


Mario Mario (That’s his name in the film) is portrayed by Bob Hoskins and as such, is a fairly convincing Mario. He gives his best Brooklyn accent, that seems to deviate into Eddie Valiant at moments, but that doesn’t matter. He’s a plumber who doesn’t know what he’s fallen into. If anyone was to play Mario in the 90’s it was a toss-up between Hoskins and Danny DeVito, or Ron Jeremy, but no one wanted that!.

Luigi Mario is Mario’s younger brother. It looks like he’s supposed to have been brought up by Mario.He’s played by John Leguizamo and yes, he’s not the first choice for Luigi, but he was able to play the role well and with good comic timing. The moment they appear in their red and green overalls it becomes Super Mario Bros.

Daisy, played by Samantha Mathis is basically the damsel in distress, yet, she seems to be a fighter. The final moments of the film have a sequel stinger and at this point, Daisy has taken on the look of Ripley. She fights, but is ultimately taken and placed in another castle.

Again as with the rest of the cast, she plays the role well, with what she has to work with.
The idea that after the meteorite struck, our world was split in two. One where dinosaurs have evolved into humanoid beings and the other is our world. It’s a clever idea and fleshes out the meagre story of the game. It also firmly sets this movie as being set in our own world, meaning it has to play by the rules of our world. This also means regular humans can’t jump at irregular heights.

King Koopa

The bad guy is King Koopa, (the name Bowser isn’t mentioned) and in casting Dennis Hopper you have for a creepy villain. But he’s played for laughs more than anything, and at points, it doesn’t always land well. Hopper was openly critical of the film and its directors. There were two, Rocky Morten and Annabel Jankel a husband and wife team. Hopper was angry on set as his time overran and his lines were being changed without him being informed. It’s not a good way to work, especially if changes are happening when you’re not supposed to be on set!

Yes, Koopa wasn’t a large turtle creature, but they changed his origin to the fiercest creature from the Cretaceous Period. King Koopa is played by Dennis Hopper and I’d personally like to run into a T-Rex than Hopper on a dark night!

He is the dictator of the Mushroom Kingdom he looks human and is more of a dictator than a King of the Koopas. Koopa also looks like Donald Trump, and I’m not saying Donald Trump is descended from the small brained, small armed carnivorous T-Rex, but he has all the hallmarks of becoming a dictator!

He has an army of Goombas who are devolved mushroom kingdom residents. Yes, they don’t look much like their original game counterparts, but at the same time, they do. If they were to make Goombas that were knee high, what threat would they be? In the game as soon as Mario touches them he either dies or loses the mushroom power. In a live-action movie, this as we stated earlier is supposed to have its basis in real life, that wouldn’t happen! The Goombas actually looked quite good, and there is no mistaking what they are supposed to be.

Set Design

Then we travel to the mushroom kingdom which Production Designer David Snyder said:

“We’ve designed this film with the idea of looking at New York while on some mind-altering drugs”.

They changed it to make it look more like, and at the same time less like our world. I think it works as it’s not over the top colourful like the games, but it’s just different enough to not be like our world.

The set was a Cement Co. Plant in North Carolina, instead of using a soundstage. On a Soundstage, they would have had to build different levelled sets, but the building already had these levels which they turned into the futuristic Mushroom Kingdom.

The style of the costumes looked great; giving a sense of the Blade Runner lived in feel. I already mentioned the final plumber overalls, and how the colours pop. They’re not too cartoony, but they are colourful and give the film that final look it needs. They explain how the plumbers can jump so high by giving them booster boots, which isn’t too far beyond what the game does. Mario breaks open a box and finds things inside like coins, mushrooms and flowers. In the live-action adaptation, they get booster shoes, sentient mushrooms and Bob-ombs. How serious could we have taken the film if Bob Hoskins continuously used his head to break open a box?

Practical Effects

The practical effects are also good, having Daisy meet Yoshi a fully animatronic dinosaur. It’s said that effects designer Patrick Tatopoulos gave the creatures a cartoony look due to another dinosaur movie being made at the same time. These other filmmakers were so impressed that Tatopoulos was almost hired as a second creature shop on Jurassic Park.

The design both works for the film and is also a detriment to it, as it isn’t the colourful look of the games (well, not the Gameboy, that was mostly greens!). It tried to give a sense of realness that I don’t think works for Super Mario. A few years later in 1996, we got Super Mario 64, which looks as far from this movie’s aesthetic as can be. It’s colourful and very cartoony; it shows the Mushroom Kingdom as this magical land that doesn’t look as though anything is wrong. There are always blue skies and nothing really going on. There’s the odd Goomba running around.


Is there a legacy? I don’t know, but in 1993, I was 8 and I have fond memories of this film. I even have it on video still. It was a film based on a video game, a video game with the smallest threads of a story. They had to make a narrative that adhered to the game and was an entertaining film in itself. It was a losing battle, and as the next 25 years have shown, no game adaptation has been universally praised. We’re only just now getting films that are based on games that are being able to tread the line between gaming and film. The recent Tomb Raider movie had a nice blend of game and film. It told a solid story but added scenes that could have been ripped from the game itself.

We had Assassins Creed, which I thought was fine, but many of the problems with that were those problems that came from the games. No-one likes the future parts of the game, but unfortunately, Assassins Creed is a game that is set in that future and you can’t have an Assassins Creed film without it being set there.


Nintendo have been reticent to allow their products to be adapted into films since the failure of Super Mario Bros. But it looks like 25 year is long enough for the sour taste to disappear. As of 2018, there could be some movement on an animated Super Mario film produced by Sony Pictures. I know! As an animated film, they will be able to link it closer to the games, but I’ll admit, I wouldn’t mind seeing a sequel to the 1993 live action movie.

Unfortunately, Bob Hoskins isn’t with us anymore and as such, it would need to be a reboot.

They’ve also recently dropped the Detective Pikachu trailer, which looks surprisingly good.

Super Mario Bros

This film is a fun, adaptation of the classic video game. Yes, it failed to make any money and no doubt pushed computer game adaptations back a few years. But I wouldn’t say it is any worse than Mortal Kombat, or Alone in the Dark. It tried to take a flimsy story and give it a bit more background. But, it was imaginative and stylish. Super Mario Bros brought Mario to life and gave a reason for why the games were like they were.

I would urge everyone to try the movie again. I did and I found it quite entertaining.

Now, where’s my Nintendo 64?

If you enjoyed this article why not venture over to The Ultimate Movie Geek’s YouTube Channel. We also have a podcast called MAaD Movie Podcast where we talk movies and TV. We have other articles such as The Christmas Advent Calender.

Thank you all for reading and watching.

Nathaniel Jepson

I am the Ultimate Movie Geek and I love movies. I also have a movie based podcast called the Man About a Dog Movie Pod or MAaD Movie Pod.

One thought on “In Defence of – Super Mario Bros (1993)

  • 8th July 2021 at 00:49

    I agree! I remember seeing it in theaters and thinking it was very fun. I could never understand the hate it got.


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