No Right Explanation

No Right Explanation
Worst Videogame Movie Ever

Firefilm | 26 Mar 2012 16:00
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Dan: The Super Mario Bros. movie is a very good kicking off point for discussing this week's topic, because it was the first time such a widely known videogame franchise was put through the Hollywood grinder. Unfortunately the lessons learned from the resulting movie/meat patty have not really been taken to heart by Hollywood since then, and the same errors continue to be made. What are those unheeded lessons? Let's dive in, shall we?

Everyone has an inherently unique experience playing videogames, more so today than in the past due to alternate endings and player choice (or lack of ... Mass Effect 3, I'm looking at you!) In that regard it's very difficult to make a movie based on so many different permutations of the same experience. A particularly bad player might think that Mario is supposed to fall into a pit of lava constantly until an older brother comes to help you out, and will feel jilted if that aspect isn't reflected in the cinematic interpretation. This is just an inherent problem with adapting such a malleable, personalized source material, and Hollywood has yet to find a fix.

Any movie adapted from another medium needs to wink at the pre-existing audience that comes with it, but too many winks can bog down the narrative. For example, Yoshi makes an appearance in the movie ... come on, Yoshi? Super Mario World came out in '90 and the movie came out in '93! That means there was absolutely no kids who grew up with Yoshi and were old enough to see a movie in theaters, thus no need to add him to the movie at all. Those of you who have seen the film, think how much Yoshi is integrated into the plot. It's a lot, isn't it? That screen time could have been better used, but Hollywood just grabbed as many characters and themes as they could and figured the nostalgia factor would guarantee an audience. My advice would be if you are going to adapt a videogame into a movie, stay broad. Two brothers try to save a princess from King Koopa, and sometimes they get power-ups. There is so much freedom in that, the movie could have a chance. Spending all your time mugging for the audience, throwing in the mushrooms, the jumping, Yoshi, the goombas, hell ... Koopa's kids. It added too many limits.

So, Hollywood has an issue with taking a personalized experience and homogenizing it into a mass experience, added with the issue of not knowing what aspects to translate and what to leave on the cutting room floor. Fair enough, but how could they have done Mario right? Picture this ...

Mario and his brother awake in a medieval castle, not knowing where they were and how the portal got them there. Mario demands to know where the princess is, but he's immediately shot by a fireball and burned alive. Luigi, having just seen his brother die, stands terrified and expecting the same fate. Suddenly a large rebel force breaks in, identified by their red helmets with white dots. In the commotion Luigi is knocked out, only to find himself in a forest seemingly populated by gigantic mushrooms instead of trees, sharing the coloring of the rebel helmets. Mario's body is there too, but several rebels are covering him with slices of the mushrooms. Luigi protests, until he notices his brother regenerating and coming back to life, unscathed. Mario comes to and asks what happened, to which the rebels explain the healing powers of the shrooms only work once. Luigi simply utters "They gave you an extra life."

See what I did there? I used general aspects from the first game. Things such as having extra lives, dying in one hit unless you had a mushroom, saving the princess, and the toadstool kingdom. These are universal to playing a Mario game, and people who haven't played the game might enjoy it too. Hollywood, I'm ready to write you the rest of the script, if you're willing to pay me.

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