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Why Mario Characters Needed Major Changes for the Movie Rehaul


Video game movies have long endured a less-than-stellar reputation. The genre tends to produce a lot of low-effort offerings which struggle to impress critics or make a huge dent at the box office. Even when video game movies are successful fans often complain that the makers strayed too far from the lore of the games they are based on.


A similar outcry was heard online recently when the trailer released for the upcoming animated film The Super Mario Bros. Movie starring Chris Pratt (Mario), Anya Taylor-Joy (Princess Peach), Jack Black (Bowser), and Charlie Day (Luigi). Longtime fans of the legendary Mario gaming franchise noticed that a lot of the characters had undergone significant changes in the film. Let us take a look at why those changes were allowed, and in some cases necessary.

MOVIEWEB VIDEO OF THE DAY

Doing Away with Mario’s Italian Accent

Chris Pratt as Mario and Star Lord
Walt Disney Studios
Universal Pictures

From the moment Chris Pratt was officially announced as the voice for Mario in the film the internet collectively raised its eyebrows in surprise and outrage. Mario has been voiced in games and tie-in merchandise since 1992 by Charles Martinet, and many fans thought he should also be the one to voice Mario in the film.

Then there was the worry over how Pratt would pull off Mario’s noticeably over-the-top Italian accent for the film. Turns out the answer is… he won’t. In the trailer for the film, Mario speaks with Pratt’s regular American accent. This creative choice was criticized by Mario fans as being disrespectful to Mario’s legacy as an Italian character.

Related: John Leguizamo Continues to Criticize Super Mario Bros Chris Pratt Casting

But the truth is, Mario’s voice in the games has always been an exaggerated caricature of what Italian-Americans are supposed to sound like. Time and again that accent has drawn criticism for enforcing negative ethnic stereotypes, and the makers of the film sidestepped the issue altogether by having Pratt use his regular American accent in a way that won’t offend Italian Americans.

Empowering Princess Peach

The Super Mario Bros. Movie cast
Universal Pictures

The basic premise that the Mario gaming franchise started with was the central protagonist rescuing his girlfriend Princess Peach after she gets captured by the king of the Koopas, Bowser. This became a recurring theme for the series, with Peach often finding herself being kidnaped and held in Bowser’s castle, waiting for Mario to rescue her.

After years of jokes at the expense of Peach for getting captured so easily and repeatedly, the character gets a revamp in the new movie. The trailer makes it clear that the new Peach is Mario’s equal in their quest to stop Bowser. Rather than being captured by the main villain, Peach acts as a guide and advisor for Mario on his quest to defeat the Koopas.

Related: Here Are Anya Taylor-Joy’s Best Performances, Ranked

While old-school Mario fans might find this change surprising, Peach’s turn from helpless victim to heroic protagonist has already occurred several times in video games, as early as Super Mario Bros. 2 where she is a playable character with uniquely powerful abilities. Since then, Peach has appeared as the main hero in 2005’s Super Princess Peach, and as a prominently capable member of the gang in the franchise’s various gaming spinoffs like Mario Kart and Mario Tennis.

Luigi is the Movie’s Captive

Mario and Luigi in The Super Mario Bros. Movie
Universal Pictures

Since Peach is no longer the character in need of rescuing, the movie has passed on that role to Luigi, Mario’s younger brother. The trailer shows Luigi trapped in Bowser’s domain, being forced to provide information about his elder brother. It seems clear that Luigi, at least for some time, will fulfill the role of the helpless captive awaiting Mario’s arrival.

While his new role might seem like a downgrade for the character, Luigi is in many ways the perfect fit for the job. His humorous verbal sparring with Bowser is a highlight of the trailer, and Luigi promises to be a much more neurotic and entertaining captive for audiences to watch than Princess Peach ever was. His new role will also allow Luigi to stand apart from Mario, rather than simply being a less capable and likable version of his big brother, as he has been for so long in the games.

Bowser Is a Powerful Antagonist

Super Mario Bros. The Great Mission to Rescue Princess Peach
Nintendo

One thing the trailer for The Super Mario Bros. Movie does really well is establish Bowser as a fearsome antagonist. From commanding a giant army of Koopas riding atop a lava-encrusted castle, to destroying his enemy’s stronghold with a mighty belching of fire, the film’s version of Bowser feels like a true threat to the heroes of the story.

This feels like a step-up from many installments in the Mario franchise, where Bowser often gets shown to be a bit of a buffoon. But that is not how Jack Black approached the character when voicing the King of the Koopas for the movie. “Bowser is kind of like a heavy metal rock star,” Black told Popverse. “You know, a big, strong, and scary rock star.” Sounds like a good way to play possibly the single most iconic video game villain of all time, and to ensure that The Super Mario Bros. Movie may actually succeed.



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