In 1993, Lightmotive made a Live-Action Adaptation out of Super Mario Bros., which was later bought by Disney under Jeffrey Katzenberg's (now of Dreamworks) direction. That's right, an attempt was actually made to make a coherent narrative out of plumbers, killer turtles, and mushrooms.Mario Mario (Bob Hoskins) and his younger brother Luigi Mario (John Leguizamo) are Italian-American plumbers trying hard to earn a living in Brooklyn. A run-in with Daisy, an archeology student in her 20s, has Luigi very interested and the two quickly bond. However, all their lives are turned upside-down when Daisy, as well as Mario's girlfriend Daniella, are kidnapped and taken through a mysterious portal in Daisy's dig site after it's sabotaged by rival plumbers from the Scapelli corporation, which is looking to build there.The portal leads to a parallel world where reptiles, instead of mammals, evolved into people and became the dominant species on the planet. The alternate world is mostly barren wastelands, except for New York, which appears as a dark and dystopian version of itself, run by the despotic President Koopa and further besieged by a mysterious fungus. Attempting to rescue Daisy and Daniella, the Mario brothers end up going on a crazy adventure through every tier of this "Mushroom Kingdom" and eventually realize it's up to them to stop the whole world from going down the drain!The first ever full-length, theatrical, live-action motion picture to based on a video game, though ironically, it is often cited by many as how not to adapt a video game. Goofy, camp, grittier than the games, and appropriately saturated with The Nineties, the film was both an enormous critical and commercial disaster. Oddly enough, the film itself had an even more bizarre production period. See Super Mario Bros. The Movie Archive for the largest fansite and community devoted to the movie for more information on the film's development.A sequel webcomic with creative input from one of the movie's writers was announced for the 20th anniversary.
The series provides examples of:
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555: Averted. There is a scene in the film where Big Bad Koopa has ordered a wanted poster of the plumbers posted all over the underworld, with an 800 number to call if they are spotted. The thing is, the number is a legitimate toll-free number in the US, and if you call it, it's now a phone sex hotline.
Played straight with the brothers' van.
Absurdly Spacious Sewer: The one the brothers are shown running around in under Manhattan is about the size of a subway tunnel.
Adaptation Expansion: As this movie was being written, the Super Mario Bros. series didn't have much story or defined personalities for the characters outside of the various cartoon series or somewhat obscure comics. Because of this the writers decided to write the story from the angle of a prequel, exploring how the Mario Bros. became the Super Mario Bros. In the process Mario and Luigi were given an older brother/younger brother dynamic/conflict and Koopa was provided a motivation for needing the Princess. It also suggests how Toad and Yoshi came to be at the Princess' side.
Adaptational Badass: Bob-Ombs. There's a reason everyone screams and runs away when Mario pulls one out late in the film. If Bob-Ombs caused that much destruction in the games, they would probably make the games unwinnable.
Intentional or not, that reaction is still common in the Super Smash Bros.. series, where Bob-Ombs are some of the most powerful, and unpredictable weapons in the game. They rain from the sky if a sudden death match goes on too long.
Adaptational Wimp: Aside from the aforementioned Bob-Ombs, basically everyone, and a huge part of why fans of the games hated the movie. The entire Koopa family as shown in the film are changed from badass fire-breathing turtle dragon sorcerers into fairly average humanoids, with the only strange thing about them being that they evolved from dinosaurs rather than apes. Koopa Troopas and Goombas zigzag into Adaptational Badass by being changed into big burly guys with tiny heads, but then it gets subverted when you see them in action. Mario and Luigi never once jump on someone's head or change into tanukis. There's even a brief moment at the end where the movie teases us by having the Devolution Device used on King — er, excuse me, President Koopa, turning him into a Tyrannosaurus Rex. Sadly, a T. Rex still isn't quite as badass as a fire-breathing turtle dragon and he ends up being an Anticlimax Boss anyway, getting devolved into primordial ooze in short order.
Adult Fear: Daniella and Daisy's kidnappings are played to scary effect, and the other girls Iggy and Spike kidnapped are talked about before being seen. As far as the residents of Brooklyn knew, they were missing and probably dead.
All There in the Manual: The name of the city that Koopa is ruling over is called "Dinohattan" in various promotional releases, but is never referred to by name in the film itself.
The nation Dinohattan is in is "Saurasaland," a pun on Sarasaland from Super Mario Land.
All There in the Script: Various scripted plot points were likely never shot, including the reason why Daisy is the only one that can merge the dimensions: she is the sole survivor of the Portal-Keepers, an esoteric society mutated by the meteorite's radiation.
And I Must Scream: The King apparently spent around twenty years as a formless mass of fungus, but was still sentient and conscious through it all.
Not as bad as it could be, as he was able to keep tabs on the entire city, contain Koopa, and help the Mario Bros. restore him.
Animated Credits Opening: Partially. The movie opens with a weird, pixelated artstyle that shifts into live-action after the dinosaurs express their contentment with life. This was due to Executive Meddling as the producers felt test audiences weren't getting the concept of the parallel dimensions and needed it spelled out. The idea was to have graphics reminiscent of the games but they opted for a cheaper and faster route.
Artistic License - Biology/Hollywood Evolution: The residents of Dinohattan, including Daisy, are said to descend from reptiles and yet somewhere along the course of their evolution, they developed the ability to grow hair, and (for the women) breasts, which would technically make them mammals.
Artistic License - Geography: The asteroid that rendered the dinosaurs extinct and opened a portal to another dimension supposedly struck what is now Brooklyn, New York when a lot of evidence suggests that the asteroid really struck what is now the Yucatan Peninsula.
Asshole Victim: With the fact that Anthony Scarpelli had been running the Mario Bros. out of business and threatening Daisy with violence to stop her digging project so he could continue with construction, as well as that fact that his construction project also weakened the barriers between dimensions and enabled Koopa to invade easier in the first place, one can hardly shed a tear for him when Koopa devolves him into a monkey.
Bond One-Liner: Luigi makes one in reference to Lena—"She sure makes a good impression."
Brick Joke: Attempted pretty clumsily. It starts with King Koopa ordering a pizza about halfway through the movie. Later, as he's about to prepare his Goomba army, he wonders what's taking his pizza so long. Finally, as he has cornered the Mario brothers in the climax, he gets a phone call from the pizza joint that his pizza has arrived.
Done better with a pair of Funny Background Events: as soon as Mario and Luigi are trying to get their bearings around Koopa's city, a cyclist collides with a yellow car and is electrocuted. In one of the last scenes, before the final confrontation with Koopa, the same car can be seen with a skeleton on the hood.
Captivity Harmonica: Toad, who is depicted as a street musician, plays one after he and the Mario Bros are arrested, and placed in giant cages. He even plays it after his de-evolution to a Goomba.
Card-Carrying Villain/Exact Words: When Mario and Luigi meet up with their "attorney," the attorney tells them that they don't want to meet Koopa, as he is "one evil, egg-sucking son of a snake." When it is revealed that Koopa was the person who acted as their attorney, Luigi expresses shock, to which Koopa then repeats the above description and asks "Did I lie?"
The Cameo: Lance Henriksen loves those plumbers, man.
Composite Character: Princess Peach's personality and looks with Daisy's name, done because the writers felt "Toadstool" (the only other name available at the time) was "just weird".
In addition to Foreman Spike, some fans believe that Scapelli is based on Donkey Kong as well, due to his harassing Daisy at a construction site and his de-evolution into a monkey.
Clipped Wing Angel: Koopa is de-evolved into a T-rex near the end, but easily de-evolved further into primordial slime.
Cool Car: The Koopa-Troopamobiles, aka the Dinohattan police cars.
Crapsack World: This is what happens when Blade Runner's setting is on shrooms (literally!).
Dialogue from Toad suggests that life wasn't always so bad, but things went to shit after Koopa took over.
Crowd Hockey: At the Boom Boom Bar, Lena and her soldiers try to take the meteorite necklace away. Mario and Luigi keep it away from her a couple of times by ducking through the crowd, but eventually she takes it from them.
Cut Short: The film obviously left room for a sequel in the ending, but any plans for a sequel were all but cancelled due to the bad reviews and sales for the movie.
Darker and Edgier: The "Mushroom Kingdom" is a Blade Runner-esque dystopia being slowly overtaken by sentient fungus. Goombas and Koopas are seven-foot-tall reptilian humanoids with tiny heads, and industrial-looking guns that shoot huge balls of fire are the film's answer to the Fire Flower.
Defiant to the End: Toad continues to rant at and badmouth Koopa as he is shoved into the Devo Chamber.
"Our old king, you tried to get rid of him! But the king's everywhere! You can't get rid of him! EVER!!"
Dystopia Is Hard: Seen in-universe as Koopa's motivation. His dictatorship mismanaged Dinohattan so terribly that the world is running out of resources, so he plans to leave everyone there behind while he takes over Earth.
Everything's Better with Dinosaurs: The popularity of dinosaurs with children in the '90s thanks to the "Dinosaur Renaissance" is thought to be the reason they were so integrated into the setting.
Evil Is Dumb: Iggy and Spike, after being made smarter through forced evolution, eventually join up with the Mario Brothers instead. It's implied from their statement to Daisy about being her father's most loyal supporters that their stupidity was probably the result of brainwashing by King Koopa.
And you can see it coming a mile away, from the moment Spike comes out of the machine.
Spike: Ahh, our less-then-benevolent dictator!
Evolutionary Levels: The technology with which Koopa "evolves" or "de-evolves" both kinds of humans in the film. This technology was later weaponized as portable guns.
Interestingly, the shooting script for the movie avoids this by explaining that the technology doesn't reverse the evolutionary process , it's just a standard Transformation Ray that forcibly mutated (or, evolved) beings by triggering latent genes. Separate settings were meant to effect either an organism's physical or intellectual state.
Genius Loci: Sometimes, the fungi drops weapons (like Bob-bomb) to aid Mario and Luigi.
Gone Horribly Right: After finally getting sick of Iggy and Spike's stupidity and incompetence, Koopa uses the Devo Chamber to vastly augment their intelligence before sending them out to the Koopahari Desert to recapture Mario and Luigi. However, Iggy and Spike are now smart enough to think for themselves and pull a Heel-Face Turn.
I Choose to Stay: Daisy decides to stay in the other world to repair the damages caused by Koopa and leaves Luigi.
If Jesus Then Aliens: Luigi is presented this way at the beginning of the movie. His hobbies include weird tabloid magazines and bizarre mystery shows, and his mind is open to pretty much all of it. It's presumably the reason he so easily accepts the idea of an alternate dimension. This is echoed at the end when Mario comes around to his way of thinking after the unbelievable things they'd witnessed first-hand.
Daisy: You gotta come with me, I need your help! Luigi: What's wrong? Daisy: You're never gonna believe this. Mario: I believe it! Luigi: You do? Mario: Oh, I believe.
Jump Scare: A surprisingly effective one when the Tyrannosaurus lunges out.
Large Ham: Come on. Koopa is played by Dennis Hopper. Did we expect anything less?
Fiona Shaw's performance as Lena is pretty cold and understated... until she's trying to merge the dimensions. Then she reaches Rita Repulsa levels of hamminess. Of course, considering she had just been severely electrocuted, her new hamminess may be the result of having her mind fried.
Looping Lines: According to the post-production supervisor, Super Mario Bros. had the most ADR-looping of any film she had ever encountered.
Lost World: It's implied that dinosaurs have escaped from the parallel dimension into our world and humans into theirs throughout history.
Mage in Manhattan: Koopa's whole plan is to merge his dimension with ours so he can devolve everyone into monkeys and take over both worlds. He even temporarily teleports to Manhattan, but only manages to fire his de-evolution gun on the secondary antagonist before he's sucked back to the Mushroom Kingdom.
Male Gaze: Daisy's necklace dangling over Bertha's ample cleavage. Mario tries his best Leisure Suit Larry routine, but really, he's just desperate to get the crystal back.
Meat Moss: The King is slowly but surely strangling Dinohattan with his tendrils.
Merged Reality: Koopa wants to make this happen so he can take over the resulting merged world. It actually happens... until Luigi and Daisy manage to reverse it.
Military Coup: It is strongly implied that this was the method in which Koopa took control of Dinohattan.
Mook Lieutenant: Sergeant Simon, who first appears to be just a random Dinohattan desk sergeant but is given increasingly more important duties.
Much like the fish's depiction in the Nintendo Comics System, the movie's Big Bertha develops a crush on Mario.
Luigi thought he was flying after running and jumping off the elevator shaft. Turned out a hook caught his overalls.
A Nazi by Any Other Name: Brief moment when Simon passes another cop in the hallway, who raises his arm in a salute and says "Hail Koopa."
Never My Fault: Iggy blames Spike for getting the wrong girl, and for forgetting about the meteorite piece.
Noodle Incident: Iggy and Spike were the ones who kidnapped the Brooklyn girls (one is from Queens), because they mistake them to be Daisy.
Spike: Wrong again. How many times we got it wrong? Iggy:You got it wrong 5 times.
No Ontological Inertia: The King suddenly turns back to normal without the need of re-evolution as soon as Koopa is defeated.
Off-the-Shelf FX: The de-evolution guns are just Super Scopes (the SNES' light gun) painted black.
Orphan's Plot Trinket: Princess Daisy wears a meteorite fragment around her neck that she never takes off since it was the only thing left with her when she was left in the human world. The meteorite fragment is the one thing Koopa needs to orchestrate his takeover of our world. Earlier scripts indicate the metallic egg was also necessary for Koopa's plan to merge the dimensions.
People's Republic of Tyranny/Democracy Is Bad: As evidenced by the various Vote Koopa posters, Dinohatten was at least officially a Democratic Republic. Unfortunately, Koopa, their current president, managed to remain in office via false elections.
Though King Toadstool and Princess Daisy point toward it originally being a Constitutional Monarchy, suggesting Koopa performed a coup against the ruling house and "reformed" the government to give him complete control.
Dinohattan's inhabitants wear these as part of their clothing.
Star Scraper: This is how Dinohattan appears on Koopa's toy globe, surrounded by desert and nothing else.
The Starscream: Lena eventually became one of these nearing the second half of the film, when, after a failed attempt to get Koopa to reconsider focusing on Daisy, by deciding to achieve her goals to her end with the meteorite. Koopa caught on to it after she made the mistake of ordering the invasion under Koopa's word, but managed to retrieve the meteorite anyways after it was taken back.
The Stinger: A Japanese video game company is interested in producing something about... Iggy and Spike.
Stripperiffic: Some of Lena's outfits, as well as dancers at the Boom Boom bar in a scene that was cut from theatrical release. You can still see them in the background in some scenes.
Super Soldier: Koopa was attempting to create a new breed of soldiers by transforming the denizens of his universe into exaggerated mutations of their ancestral DNA.
Terrified of Germs: When Koopa first meets Mario and Luigi, he wipes his hand off with tissues after shaking their hands and even has one of his flunkies spray them with disinfectant. Taken Up to Eleven in a Deleted Scene when he devolves a lab technician into primordial ooze for sneezing.
Our Miraculous World Newscaster: I'd call them the Super Mario Bros..
Transformation Sequence: Kind of. After spending the first 2/3 of the movie wearing various outfits that have nothing to do with their traditional video game appearance, the Mario Brothers find red/blue and green/blue jumpsuits in a maintenance locker, followed by a dramatic reveal shot of them in costume, complete with caps and jump-boots.
Vanilla Edition: The movie has only had three releases in the United States: one on VHS and two on DVD. The first DVD was released in 2003 and features nothing other than the movie and a horrible transfer that touts widescreen, but is actually a chopped fullscreen. The second DVD release came in 2010 and is the same exact movie, just with the logos re-arranged on the packaging. The upcoming Blu-Ray release will finally avert this.
Koopa: What I care about is the future of our species!
What Happened to the Mouse?: Quite a few important plot threads are left unresolved and would have been Left Hanging had they not been put on the sidelines by numerous script rewrites and reshoots. Namely, the parallel world is still slowly dying from lack of clean, renewable resources, Toad and innumerable prisoners are still de-evolved, and rival plumbers Mike and Doug never get their comeuppance. The King remaining a citywide fungus would have been this had Lance Henriksen not cameoed in a reshoot where his character returns to human form after Koopa's defeat.
Never revealed whether or not Scapelli changed back to human.
Writers Cannot Do Math: Spike, after being turned super-intelligent, asks Iggy what the square root of 26,481 is, while delivering the answer immediately: 191. The thing is, 191 is actually the square root of 36,481. Though whether this is the fault of the writers for doing math wrong, the fault of the actor for just messing up the first digit, or actually deliberate (likely to show that Iggy and Spike aren't too intelligent, or just that it hasn't kicked in yet) is up in the air.
The Multiverse: The Portal Creatures invade the parallel dimension from yet another universe.
Named by the Adaptation: While the Mushroom King was referred to as Bowser in supplementary materials, he was unnamed in the film. The comic goes with Reznor, a reference to the fortress boss from Super Mario World.
Portal Door: Daisy accidentally opens one in the ancient Portal-Guardian chamber.
Sequel Gap: This comic began publishing 20 years after the original film's release.
Word of Dante: Invoked. Steven Applebaum and Ryan Hoss of the SMB Archive, the sole website devoted to the film, are scripting the story.
Word of God: Invoked. The story is based off ideas from original writer Parker Bennett, as well as backstory he and partner Terry Runté wrote that didn't make it into the film.