Early Super Mario Bros. Reviews Are Split on Visuals, Story

Video game adaptations seem to have reached a major turning point in Hollywood. With beloved franchises like Sonic the Hedgehog and The Last of Us earning surprisingly decent reviews. Perhaps the industry is finally starting to get a handle how to bring everyone’s favorite console titles to life. But 30 years after his last brush with cinematic glory ended in disaster, the most famous video game character of all is reaching for a shot at redemption. Sadly, Mario fans might have to temper their expectations once again.

Ahead of its theatrical premiere later this week, critics have begun publishing their full reactions to The Super Mario Bros. Movie online. And despite the success of other recent adaptations, the consensus appears to be split right down the middle. Currently, the film has a 55% percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Some critics were impressed by its fidelity to the source material. That includes the visual feast of the games’ iconic levels recreated using the best animation technology that money can buy. Unfortunately, other critics were less impressed, claiming the movie takes far too many swings with little to no emotional payoff. You can check out a few highlights below. 

RELATED: Jack Black Was Inspired by Darth Vader for Mario Movie’s Bowser

Awarding the film a B-, Entertainment Weekly’s Christian Holub noted that the film “often feels like an extended cutscene.” However, he had nothing but praise for Jack Black’s Bowser, hailing his performance as “the standout of this voice cast.” And the songs he sings to confess his love for Princess Peach “make great use of the Tenacious D vocalist’s unique skills.” Meanwhile, the other heroes and villains are given “modern characterizations,” especially Anya Taylor-Joy’s Peach, who “is clearly influenced by modern archetypes of strong female protagonists.” In the end, the credits roll “before anything can get annoying.” But some viewers might find it hard to shake the feeling that playing the original games would be more fun.

As a longtime fan of the games himself, Collider’s Ross Bonaime said the film was like a dream come true. Aside from being a “joyous celebration” of the Mario mythos, it’s also “one of the best kids films in recent years.” By and large, this is thanks to the movie’s creative team, which already has plenty of experience making animated features that “become almost like open playgrounds.” The result feels like a genuine labor of love rather than a shameless Nintendo advertisement. Bonaime also praised screenwriter Matt Vogel for combining so many elements of Mario lore in a “satisfying way,” even if his script is “light on plot” and supporting characters like Toad and Luigi aren’t given much to do.  

RELATED: Chris Pratt Says Super Mario Bros. Sequel Teased Post-Credits

IGN’s Tom Jorgensen says The Super Mario Bros. Movie “finally gives the most iconic character in gaming the onscreen adventure he’s always deserved.” But he also quipped that “not even a Paper Mario-thin plot can keep the magic of the games from being lost along the way.” The story hits all the major “warrior from another world” beats and “manages a great balance of accessibility” for new and old fans alike. A handful of sequences feel forced and devoid of logic, particularly the scene that takes place on Rainbow Raid. But at least the score is catchy. Composer Brian Tyler succeeds is “expressing the grandeur and whimsy of the games’ tracks at every turn and mining Koji Kondo’s original orchestrations to great effect.”

Writing for The Verge, Charles Pulliam-Moore was far more effusive than many of his colleagues. He praised the movie as “the new gold standard for video game films,” with a story that’s “equal parts nostalgic and reflective of the franchise’s future.” He also said that it is “so dense with painstakingly crafted details meant to spark joy from the jump.” That underscores the filmmakers’ commitment to getting things “right” and “translating the essence of its source material into something that feels familiar but also like its own distinct quantity.” Because of this, the film’s otherworldly locations feel like “living, breathing, organic places that you’d want to spend hours exploring if they were parts of an open-world video game.”

Gizmodo’s Germain Lussier didn’t waste any time in letting readers know he felt about the movie. His headline simply reads, “The Super Mario Bros. Movie Stinks” and he claims it took “all of 40 seconds” for him to realize the film was going to be a dud. Overall, the movie is “disarmingly straightforward, with characters who barely learn anything, and stakes that never elicit even a hint of emotion.” But in his view, this is typical of the film’s studio: “It’s a movie made with an elementary-school level of story, character, theme, and humor because that’s what Illumination does.”

In his own 4/10 review, ScreenCrush’s Matt Singer claims the movie features no jokes “beyond the central conceit that they took all the accumulated weirdness from 40 years of Super Mario games and put it up on screen, logic be damned.” He also argued that “to be truly worthwhile, a Mario film needs to offer something the games can’t. For the most part, The Super Mario Bros. Movie doesn’t. It also lacks the “anarchic energy” of directors Aaron Horvath and Michael Jelenic’s earlier work on Teen Titans Go! to the Movies, which would have been “very welcome” in this case.

RELATED: Super Mario Bros. Directors Explain Chris Pratt’s Mario Voice

The Los Angeles Times’ Katie Walsh described the film as “exactly the opposite of the weird, dark, edgy 1993 movie adaptation.” But this isn’t necessarily a compliment. In fact, she says that in spite of its “eye-popping” animation, the film is only “mildly amusing.” She also noted that it stretches “a series of gameplay sequences across a barely there hero’s journey story” over the course of its 90-odd-minute runtime. Meanwhile, Pratt and Day’s voiceover work as Mario and Luigi is “so unremarkable that it could have been anyone at all.” But Walsh did agree with other critics about Black’s Bowser performance, which might be the only one that’s actually worth the price of a ticket.

The Super Mario Bros. Movie hits theaters this Friday, April 7.

What do you think of these early reviews for the film? Let us know in the comment section below!

Recommend Reading: Super Mario Adventures

We are also a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program. This affiliate advertising program also provides a means to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.

Also. However. Regardless. Additionally. Also.