Super Mario Bros. I don’t think anyone could have predicted how hugely successful the movie would be. We knew it was going to be big, but we didn’t know it would be the biggest 5-day opening ever. Super Mario is easily on pace to surpass Warcraft as the highest-grossing video game movie, and if it maintains this momentum, it could even challenge the likes of Frozen. .
Super Mario has been a huge success and it’s no surprise that audiences love it. It’s a fast-paced crowd pleaser, with tons of nostalgic references, thrilling action moments, and Jack Black singing goofy songs. Hate to admit it, but Chris Pratt does a decent job as a humble plumber. Don’t tell anyone that I said that.
The audience can’t say enough good things about it, but there’s an oft-repeated compliment that I take issue with. Looking at Rotten Tomatoes audience reviews, social media reactions, and even comments from peers, the most commonly repeated sentiment is The Super Mario Bros. It’s just that Movie works because it feels like a video game. Leaving aside my feelings about how well the film is doing – the box office clearly proves that it is doing well – I raise some issues with this point of view. No, I don’t think Super Mario “feels like a video game”, but you know what a movie is? John Wick: Chapter 4.
Super Mario Bros. Movie is definitely full of content from video games. They’re all there, along with Mario, Bowser, Princess Peach, goombas, koopas, and all the other naughty little guys under King Koopa’s thrall. This adventure takes our heroes to the Mushroom Kingdom and the Jungle Kingdom. This kingdom is more like the Mario Kart universe than the game’s Kong Island, but let’s slide here. They use power-ups, jump on and run around on green pipes, and drive down Rainbow Road. It has all the icons of a Mario game, but does it make it “feel” like a video game, or a movie with a real Mario feel?
There’s nothing about the narrative structure, scene organization, or scene selection that makes Super Mario different from every other computer-animated film of the last decade. It does not play in a 2D side scroller or third person perspective. The scene is set up like a level Mario must beat before moving on to the next level. Other than power-ups, there are no plot devices that make up everything that happens in a video game. Unless you have prior knowledge of Mario games, I’m not going to make the same argument. Aspects related to video games (heroes being quested, villains to be defeated, special skills to be mastered) also relate to Kung Fu Panda, and no one compared it to video games.
The scene closest to playing Mario is a training montage in which Peach teaches Mario how to use power-ups, but it relies far more on movie conventions than video game conventions. It’s not a single level to play over and over again until you master it, but a time-warping montage. This is Rocky’s territory, not Nintendo’s. Also, Mario does a lot of things in this sequence that he never does in the game. When he reaches a pillar of an empty block, he lunges and breaks through the pillar. He skips along the top of Bullet Bills. He powerslides around corners. At one point he thinks he’s won, so he goes into slow motion while raiding Peach, but gets his head chewed out by the robot Piranha Plant. He does all of this to the tune of Bonnie Tyler’s I Need A Hero. sorry. This isn’t Mario stuff. This is not a video game. It’s about movies.
Which brings us to John Wick: Chapter 4, a video game movie from Hell. Unlike the Mario movies, John Wick’s story is structured like a series of video game levels. After a set-piece intro teaching Wick how to move and shoot in the desert (every game needs a tutorial, even part 4), the game starts at the Osaka Continental. Chapter 4 blends third-person shooter gameplay with tight melee combat, allowing for a seamless transition between fighting styles. Every combat encounter is shown as a long, unbroken shot over Wick’s shoulder from a fixed camera position or placing him on a flat plane with his opponent like in a fighting game.
Each mission has a lot of enemy variety. The Osaka Continental throws a bunch of assassins with knives at him, followed by a cover-shooting segment, and finally pits him against high table representatives in body armor. He has to adjust his playstyle according to each type of enemy and arena he fights. Later missions introduce a handful of mini-bosses, including larger enemies that absorb melee attacks, enemies wearing bulletproof masks, and fighting dogs.
There is a lot of gameplay variation between missions as well. The entire battle takes place in the middle of a roundabout at the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, which begins as a driving mission and turns into an extended combat encounter where Wick has to dodge cars while fighting. A level everyone will be talking about for years to come, John Wick: Chapter 4’s Piece of Resistance is a top-down shooter mission straight from Hotline Miami. Wick wields a shotgun full of incendiary bullets. This ammunition is definitely a type of ammunition invented for video games, it systematically takes out all enemies in an apartment, uses walls and corners for cover, and blasts targets with dragon breath to turn them into ragdolls. Sail across the room. The entire sequence is one unbroken shot from a bird’s eye view. It’s the most straightforward video game sequence since Doom’s first-person shooter scene.
You can actually feel the press of square to reload as Wick progresses through each fight, moving from cover to cover and aligning his reticule on the faceless thug. Wick eliminates hundreds of people throughout the film, but it’s easy to tell when certain stunt performers are recurring. After all, there are too many character models for every game to use. John Wick and Super Mario obviously represent two very different kinds of video games, but John Wick is the only game that successfully resembles playing them. I don’t blame Mario Movie fans, but if they really Think of it as feeling like a video game. I’m not saying it just because I feel like I have to, I need to see John Wick: Chapter 4 and get back to you.
Next: The Mario Movie Peaches Song won’t be nominated for an Oscar, whether it deserves it or not.