Critics and fans rarely agree. This is usually because of one or two reasons particularly: one, critics are far more trained in their ability to assess and critique, allowing them to peer deeper into the framework of a story. And because of their honest assessment of a certain movie, TV show, video game, or otherwise, they conclude that the fans are incorrect in saying that it’s good.
The second reason is far more embarrassing: being public critics, they are constantly pressured to say the right things and correctly rate the things that need to be rated. In other words, there is a limited amount of things you’re allowed to say, and if you say anything you’re not allowed to, or if you don’t say the right things, you get a 56% Rotten Tomatoes score. Just keep this in mind as I ramble.
I was never a huge Mario fan. I had my fair share of retro Mario back in the day: back when we had the Wii, my dad introduced me to many games I’d remember with fondness: Super Mario Bros 1 and 3, Sonic and Knuckles, and Final Fantasy 6. I never had much of the 3D Mario games (not even Mario 64, which many look back upon with fondness), so the new art style was kinda lost on me. Heck, I didn’t even have Donkey Kong. But, naturally, I respected it as one of the first and best pixel platformers of another era, a necessary stepping stone to future games. Plus, they have some pretty fun 3D platformers too, I’m not gonna lie.
Oh yeah, and then there were those campy Super Mario bros cartoons that I had as a kid. Honestly, they weren’t bad, but I just viewed Sonic as better in every way. Even before the live-action-animation-mix Sonic movie came out, the blue hedgehog had already gotten a better run than Mario had as far as TV shows were concerned. (Ha. Run? Get it? Because Sonic’s fast? Never mind…)
So when Nintendo dropped the trailer for the Super Mario Bros movie in collab with Illumination, I was…puzzled. To say that Mario isn’t as relevant now as he used to be would be an understatement. Of course, he would always remain an icon of gaming in the 80s and 90s, and of early gaming in general. Mario makes two appearances in the World Video Game Hall of Fame: Once in Donkey Kong and once in his debut game, Super Mario Bros. Incredibly nostalgic, but this was all 30-40 years ago. Mario was old, and his games were only on one platform.
Of course, Super Mario Bros has famously had an awful run when it comes to adaptations. Super Mario Bros the movie (1993) is a piece of crap, and would set in incredibly low bar that video game adaptations would continue to fail. From Street Fighter to Resident Evil, Hollywood continued to excrete disaster after disaster until no one cared about video games becoming movie. I say all this to say…when I watched the SMB 2023 movie, I was surprised.
Not the kind of “blown away by an incredible masterpiece” surprised. Just…surprised. I mean, if you want the skinny, it was good. Not Puss in Boots: The Last Wish, but very nostalgic and fun for the whole family. On its own, it would have been a slightly above-average acceptable animated movie, but the fact that it stars the Mario brothers does wonders for it. If you’re on the fence about watching it, I’d say go for it.
But what of the Rotten Tomatoes conundrum? If critics are to be believed, the Super Mario Bros. movie is a flop with only a 56% score. Sounds pretty dire, especially for an animated movie released in 2023. Yet the movie made 377.6 Million dollars over the weekend. May I ask, how?
I got my answer when I watched the movie. It’s a charming, unassuming, playful romp with characters you’ll enjoy seeing in action with plenty of nostalgic throwbacks and colorful battle scenes that everyone will enjoy. There’s a small but significant “believe in yourself” underlying theme that serves to give the movie some meaning. Plus, it’s Mario. The movie is so…fun. It’s so utterly dedicated to be the most fun movie possible, and it’s not trying to do anything else.
And now we’ve arrived at our problem.
You remember when I said that official reviewers are basically only allowed to say certain things lest they incur the wrath of a certain group of individuals? That’s why Hogwarts Legacy wasn’t given a fair shake except by independent reviewers. Same deal with stuff like the Terminal List. Ghostbusters 2016 was rated way higher than it deserved…by critics. I could go on.
When a movie doesn’t go the way everyone else wants to it, when a movie doesn’t politically say the right things or wisely chooses to say nothing about politics at all, when a movie dares to be something other than the mindless, tasteless sludge that is modern Hollywood, when a movie tries to be fun and nothing more…well, the critics are up in arms about it.
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