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Why ‘The Super Mario Bros. Movie’ Had The Fans Divided?

Despite the film doing quite a bit to ensure that it had the aesthetic of the Nintendo classic game franchise, it lacked the very essence that made the game special

Aayush Chaurasia - Thu, 04 May 2023 21:29:38 +0100 1700 Views
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The Super Mario Bros movie which was released last month on 7th April 2023, was panned by critics on Rotten Tomatoes, but it received unanimous appraisal from the audience. Even though I enjoyed it, some things felt off about the film. What I felt was echoed in a lot of critic reviews about the film. The film despite doing quite a bit to ensure that it had the aesthetic of the Nintendo classic game franchise lacked the very essence that made the games special. Either that or we just grew up into adults who aren't as easily entertained with the same old mediocre stories and dialogues.

I've seen that the audience rating and the critic ratings for the film are at odds and I think I can explain why critics are not too happy with this film and why it is their fault (for the most part)

The following discussion about the film and why it felt bizarre and has the fans arguing about it, will contain spoilers.

The Studio In Charge

Firstly, Illumination Studios was responsible for the development of the film. And if you're someone who isn't caught up on Illumination and their filmography. These are the people behind film franchises such as The Minions, Despicable Me, Sing & Secret Life of Pets among others. Do you know what's the common thread that ties all these films together? 

It is the lack of real quality in story writing, direction, and most importantly heart/character. Most of these films are very lackluster child entertainers made at a very low budget to maximize the profits that can be earned through an animated release. And they're actually doing really well. Their philosophy is of lowest effort with maximum results and so far they've managed to have a number of massive hits through this philosophy.


When we talk about other animation giants like DreamWorks or Pixar, we see that they make an effort to develop their Intellectual Properties over time with a great writing staff who make stories based on heart, from personal experiences, or with original concepts that feel worthy of watching. 

Illumination studios on the other hand release films which feel factory-made, cheap, and fast. Their previous releases, in my opinion, have all been mediocre at best. They're not really bad films per se but are just passable. Look back at films like Toy Story, even though it is a film that's made for children, it offers mature themes that adults identify with as well. The same is true for Wall. E. 

Why Critics Didn't Like It

The Super Mario Bros. Movie isn't a poor film at all. Quite the opposite, it is somewhat enjoyable at certain points. But it feels bizarre because of the studio that brought it. The story feels very generically written, it makes the film an origin story for Mario World and all the kingdoms which isn't something that any of us were expecting to be honest. His story of trying to save Luigi from Bowser after he discovers this magical world through a pipe in the sewers of Brooklyn goes against the idea that these characters have always been inseparable and part of the Mario universe (I suppose it is the peach universe now). That and the very formulaic nature of the story, with constant references and Easter eggs for long-time fans, makes it easy-to-bash-film, critically.

Since it is literally the definition of a nostalgia bait film that exists solely to cash in on how popular the Mario franchise is rather than be a film that tells a story about this beloved character. One that feels eventful and interesting. As a reviewer described it as "a checklist of video game references", it is understandable why critics don't particularly like it.

They went in probably expecting a film that would give them something like a Pixar or Disney film would. But they were wrong since this film is literally for the fans and hence the fans loved it.


The Audience's High Reception

However, the audience rating is extremely positive. And that is because the average viewer of the film, or the target demographic couldn't care about all these issues with the story, the character development, and the studio. What they saw is an easy-going film that screams fun and is filled with some of the most popular characters and actors playing those characters. Jack Black playing Bowser is a treat and despite my personal dislike for Chris Pratt as Mario, he is definitely not terrible in the role. The film is probably the most amount of effort that Illumination Studios has had to put into a film in a very long time.

It has jokes that don't always work but again, with the target demographic they had it didn't matter. The story ends without any development of the characters, but again with the target demographic it didn't matter. It was a film made as a love letter to the fans of the Mario Bros franchise jam-packed with music, references, and style familiar to the longtime fans. It was simple enough for even the younger ones who might not know the video game legend to enjoy it.


I feel like critics should review the films based on what the film is set out to achieve rather than what they want it to be and then there would be more uniformity in critic and audience reviews. This way they can better gauge a film's performance in the long run as well. At the end of the day, Super Mario Bros movie was extremely successful and even if it isn't remembered as a great movie, it will be remembered as a great video game movie.



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