The Super Mario Bros. Movie is on everyone's lips right now. And why? Because it's a pretty darn big deal. We've talked about the movie at length, looking at its Easter eggs to simply just having a chat over a cuppa. But two Nintendo Life staffers still have stuff to get off of their chests, and this is their chance to finally let loose.

While we scored the movie a 6/10, calling it more of a "spectacle" than a film with much story, there's plenty to love about Mario's big screen adventure. get cosy with your Easter eggs, a beverage, and something cosy, as we go over our thoughts and feelings on the Mario Movie, including our favourite bits, what didn;t quiet work for us, and what we really want to see next.

It should go without saying, but there are mild spoilers throughout our discussion here, so if you don't want to be spoiled on any particular details, then be warned.

With that out of the way... let's-a-go!

Alana Hagues, Staff Writer: So, The Super Mario Bros. Movie. It’s real, it’s happening, and we’ve both seen it. Jim, you’ve basically been living the Mario Movie for the whole week, has it sunk in that Nintendo could potentially be a box office powerhouse?

Jim Norman, Staff Writer: At this stage, I don’t know what’s real and what’s squishy Illumination animation — this film is everywhere. I am now of the thought that there is no ‘potentially’ for the film’s box office success. It’s only been out a few days, and people are loving it (regardless of the critical response).

AH: I think the coolest thing was seeing all of these little kids with their Mario toys and their Luigi costumes and so on on, and really enjoying themselves. I think word of mouth and critical aggregate might come into play, but yeah, this is going to be rolling in gold coins.

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Image: Nintendo / Illumination

Anyway, we're not here to speculate on the film's success. We want to dive into the warp pipe that is the Mario Movie and really nail down its best and worst bits. So let's get started.

Sublime symphonies

JN: I think that it is very easy to sit and point to all of the flaws with the film, but it would be nice to talk about what we enjoyed first of all, because I stand by the fact that there are things to be enjoyed in this movie.

AH: 100%. It’s totally a love letter to Mario and Nintendo’s history, and anyone who’s grown up with Mario or shared Mario games with their families will each take away new memories. This is something you and Alex talked about, but I think my favourite thing about the film is the score. We’ve had two video game movies in the last week (Tetris, and this) and both have expertly woven in the games’ music. Just little motifs that make you smile or set the mood.

JN: Oh gosh, I could talk about Brian Tyler’s score all day! Some of the visual references might grow a little tiresome with just how many of them there are, the score does such a good job of boiling down over 40 years of Mario’s audio history into a soundtrack that is simultaneously brand new and strangely familiar. I grinned whenever I caught a little bit of theme from a previous game, be it Donkey Kong Country, Super Mario World or Luigi’s Mansion.

AH: Pretty much from when the film opens up and Bowser’s Castle is moving towards the penguin kingdom, and you hear the Airship Fortress theme. My goodness. The sound design in general is marvellous. The little Luma makes the noise from Galaxy at one point, and Bowser’s laugh from Mario 64 is in the credits. These are the kinds of little references I love.

JN: I completely agree and (despite my earlier criticism) this is carried over into the visuals generally to a pretty high level. There are some inevitable references that feel like the film is nudging your arm and saying “hey, see what I did there?”, but for the most part, the backgrounds and nudging lines make this a good time.

Bowser is king

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Image: Nintendo / Illumination

AH: Pivoting away from the music, personally Bowser also worked for me. Jack Black was born to play the Koopa King – who knew. One of the only laughs I got out of the film was his ridiculous ballad. The Bowser of the Mario Movie reminded me of the Bowser of Super Mario RPG, Paper Mario, or the Mario & Luigi games.

JN: We certainly see a softer side to the character in this one and Jack Black clearly understood the brief down to the letter. The film manages to do this with a couple of different characters. Say what you will about Seth Rogen’s line delivery, but Donkey Kong is given some real character here which was lovely to see.

AH: The number of DK characters in general was great, and I’m glad Donkey Kong himself got some time to shine, even if I’m not in love with his depiction or characterisation. But they do build on stuff that’s hinted at all through Mario’s history. It makes me want another game with just Mario and Donkey Kong.

The Bowser of the Mario Movie reminded me of the Bowser of Super Mario RPG, Paper Mario, or the Mario & Luigi games.

JN: It’s a shame that despite giving more meat to characters like DK, Bowser and Toad, I still didn’t feel like we got enough time to really know them. This is very clearly a ‘first film’ where the studio is throwing ideas at the wall and seeing what sticks. There are a lot of characters and scenes in this which don’t get the screen time that I would have liked.

AH: Yep, it’s pretty much the first brick in the castle. The whole movie just felt like a big advertising campaign for what Illumination and Nintendo can do together. Which, you know, works because it’s a chocolate box of references and delights. But like you say, the pacing of this film is breathless – there’s maybe only one or two moments in the movie where we get a moment to breathe.

Super Starlord?

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Image: Nintendo / Illumination

JN: It does seem to be the kind of script that the studio wanted to make easy-watching for as wide an audience as possible and therefore no peril or problem is allowed to last for any more than thirty seconds before the character finds a way out. There is one particular scenario (and you’ll know if you have seen the movie already), where two characters get stuck inside a sticky situation, and the whole sense of danger lasts for maybe two minutes before they find the solution.

AH: Not to dwell on the negatives, but off of the back of that, I also don’t totally love the way Mario has been characterised as a bit of a goofball. And it’s those situations that amplify it. Peach always deals with scenarios efficiently, but Mario gets pushed around a fair bit before finding the miraculous solution.

JN: I wonder how much of that is to do with the star power behind those roles. I actually didn’t mind Chris Pratt’s vocal performance all that much here (the film has a clever way of palming the voice off from the get-go), but he does have a habit of playing the goofball. But I know what you mean. This is far from the determined hero of something like Super Mario Odyssey.

AH: Mario is a little bit of a blank canvas anyway, so it could just be us, or perhaps the star power makes us struggle to suspend our disbelief. But anyway, let’s talk about some more nice things.

Sunshine and Rainbow Roads

JN: This always sounds a bit negative to say things like “I really liked the art direction”, but I do have to admit that I thought the film looked great right from the start. It was something special for me to see these worlds that I have spent so long in be imagined in such great detail and colour.

It’s another example of the care and attention that has going into the design of the film world.

AH: I think the whole Mario Kart sequence is where this really shines. Not a detail has been missed with the karts, designs, Rainbow Road, and the items – it looks pretty amazing in motion and is one of the few times we actually have some sustained peril.

JN: God, I hope that we get that version of Rainbow Road in Mario Kart 8 Deluxe some time soon. The same can be said for the Kongs’ Jungle Kingdom. As soon as we have something bright and active, it steps up a gear.

AH: I got some serious DK Jungle (from Mario Kart 7) vibes from the whole place.

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Image: Nintendo / Illumination

JN: Oh absolutely! It’s another example of the care and attention that has going into the design of the film world. Would you say that one of these moments of spectacle is a favourite part of yours?

AH: Rainbow Road is up there, for sure. I also loved the opening sequence where Mario and Luigi are heading to their first job in Brooklyn. I was always worried about a 'real world' being in the Mario Movie, and I think it fit in really well – considering what it had to work with.

The streets of New York

JN: I am so glad that you brought up the Brooklyn opening, because that is perhaps the only section where I was 100% sold on this film. It goes to show that you don’t need action and quips at a breakneck speed to make things interesting. In fact, slowing the pace and getting a chance to just chill out with these characters lets us get to know them that little bit more — we start to care.

It would be nice if the sequel (which I think is inevitable at this point) is given the chance to breathe like these early moments and really dive into what makes these characters, locations and situations interesting.

AH: Who knew that the best part of the Mario Movie would be the part not in the Mushroom Kingdom?

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Image: Nintendo / Illumination

JN: This is true, but it is the part that actually focuses on Mario as a character. Even if that character does sound a bit like Starlord and appears kind of ageless…

AH: When Mario and Luigi were with their family, I thought to myself “Wait, how old are they meant to be”?

JN: It’s like they are children but with very thick moustaches and, you know, bills to pay. I guess the retirement age in Mario’s world must be pretty young.

Plucking from history

AH: Let’s not go down a Mario lore rabbit hole - we don’t need a Zelda timeline-esque debate! But since the movie is loaded with a bunch of historical references, we’ve surely got a few favourites? What’s the first reference that comes to mind for you? Or your favourite?

Who knew that the best part of the Mario Movie would be the part not in the Mushroom Kingdom?

JN: Oh, there are so many! I liked the nods to other Nintendo IP s— there’s a little bit of Star Fox and a little of Pikmin if you keep your eyes peeled — but I think my favourite is a moment that brings the iconic World 1-1 into a new light, shall we say. It’s one of the few times where an Easter egg strikes the perfect balance between being obvious for those in the know, but not so in your face that it distracts from everything else going on.

Do any others spring to mind for you?

AH: The other Nintendo IPs also stood out to me, especially the ones that you don’t consider “big” Nintendo titles; Balloon Fight, Ice Climber, etc. Things for the long-time fans. You can spot them out of the corner of your eye.

There’s a much more obvious moment late in the film which I loved, where everyone’s favourite eel makes an appearance. Mario 64 was my first Mario game, so I had to laugh because I was terrified of that thing as a kid. Oh, and there’s even one non-Nintendo reference I adored – a little homage to King Kong vs. Godzilla.

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Image: Nintendo / Illumination

JN: There certainly is a lot of the ‘real’ world brought into this film in ways that make things tricky if you think about it for too long. If Nintendo exists in the movie, then has the company not made any Mario games? Are the Mario games inspired by the events of this movie? Probably best not to go too deep on it. My head hurts…

AH: Honestly, I was morally conflicted when I saw Mario playing the NES.

Super Mario Bros. 2

AH: Let’s stick to the actual real world then. This film is getting a sequel, there’s no way it isn’t. What do you really want to see in a follow-up?

JN: It’s difficult to say without giving too much away, but I think that despite this film’s huge cast of characters (maybe too big), there are still a few more big names that I would love to see get some time in the limelight.

Apart from Mario fancastings though (trust me, that’s not a hole that we want to go down), I would honestly just like to see a potential sequel ease off the gas a little and focus on making a story that is engaging, first and foremost, with references and asides as a secondary feature. Sounds nice, right?

AH: Sounds perfectly lovely, and I don’t think it’s impossible now the foundations are here. I agree on the characters — there’s one obvious one that’s guaranteed to feature more. But I want more Luigi. I felt like he was really underutilised and when him and Mario were together, there was a little spark of investment and heart. I could do with a Luigi’s Mansion short, to be honest, but really, just more Luigi please.

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Image: Nintendo / Illumination

JN: We shouldn’t have been watching a Mario film where Cranky Kong (Cranky Kong!!) features more prominently than Luigi. That just isn’t on.

AH: I like Cranky Kong, but… this movie did him a disservice. Anyway. Yes, more focused, better use of other characters – I think these are reasonable expectation for the future of the Nintendo Cinematic Universe.

Down the flag pole

AH: Now, as the curtains close, let’s wrap up with our brief final thoughts about the movie.

JN: If the Mario Movie has done one thing, it has opened up an important discussion about 'Kids Films'. The fact of the matter is, films for children can still be excellent films (Paddington, Toy Story, Puss in Boots, the list goes on). It’s not fair to say that the Mario Movie is off the hook just because it is intended “for children” when there is so much good stuff out there.

Is the film a perfectly harmless, fun time? Yes it is. But I can’t say that it will be making its way onto my list of great movies any time soon.

Is the film a perfectly harmless, fun time? Yes it is. But I can’t say that it will be making its way onto my list of great movies any time soon.

AH: Illumination has even proven that it’s capable of this – I don’t love the Despicable Me movies, but they have an emotional core that’s really integral to the plot. The Mario Movie has a kernel of that, but it goes at such a breakneck pace that there’s barely any time to reflect on that.

I don’t want to finish on an overly down note because I am excited that the movie exists and that it’s going to be enjoyed by many, even if I felt pretty underwhelmed when I left the cinema. So I’ll end things with a request: everyone, go listen to the Mario Movie soundtrack right now.


We're sure we'll be talking about the Mario Movie for weeks to come, but for now, join in the conversation! What are your favourite moments from the film? What do you want to see in a potential sequel? Let us know in the comments.

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