By Elsie McElroy, Bailey Kestell, and Peyton Hilbert
On Friday, April 7th, UW-Green Bay students piled onto a bus to the East Side Marcus Theatre at 6:30 p.m. to watch Nintendo and Illumination’s latest collaboration, The Super Mario Bros. movie. This is part of a recently revived event, “UWGB Goes to the Movies,” which made its appearance last semester to view Avatar: Way of Water. For this event, UWGB students were allowed to attend the movie for free.
Rowan Voskuil, an event attendee and a UW-Green Bay student studying Arts Management, stated, “I wanted to see it because I thought it would be a fun experience, and it was also an excuse to go out with my friends.” Similarly, Grace Prust, another participating student studying Communication and who had attended previous UWGB Goes to the Movies, stated, “It looked interesting… and I kind of wanted to see if it would hold up to poor expectations or not. I didn’t have high expectations.”
UWGB Goes to the Movies had a large turnout for the Mario Movie, though that’s no surprise, considering the Mario Movie has had quite a bit of coverage ranging from advertising to the discussion surrounding the starring big-name actors such as Jack Black and Chris Pratt. Movie critics have been less than thrilled about the film, with a low critic score of 56%, according to Rotten Tomatoes. Yet, surprisingly, it has also earned a high audience score of 96% on Rotten Tomatoes. According to Tom’s Guide Critics, the movie is noted for its great animation and bright colors, most likely due to this movie being marketed toward children while still trying to appeal to the nostalgia for adults. According to Dr. Bryan Carr, a professor at UWGB who specializes in Mass Media, this is likely the goal for the movie. “Mario is for the kids. It’s not going to be just for people in their 30s and 40s who grew up with it. It’s for everybody,” Dr. Carr stated.
This sentiment seemed to be highly reflected in the students attending the movie. One student milling in the lobby after the movie told a friend, “[The movie] was actually really cute!” Voskuil stated, “I thought the movie was really fun, although I don’t think I would’ve had quite as much fun seeing it alone as I did with friends.” Prust, who went into the movie with low expectations, stated post-watching it, “I enjoyed it a lot. Jack Black did an awesome job.”
Taking a second glance at the Mario Movie, appeal to nostalgia is rampant throughout the entire movie, ranging from the soundtrack to even minuscule details like a phone’s ringtone being an old Nintendo gaming console start-up notes. Voskuil stated that, while she didn’t know when she first interacted specifically as a kid, she “does remember playing a copy of Yoshi’s Island for Game Boy ALL the time. I was probably about as young as 7, maybe.” Ethan McElroy, a student studying Computer Programming at Madison Technical College and who had grown up playing Mario games as far back as the original NES versions, stated, “It was packed full of fun references to other Nintendo products that make you nostalgic. I had a big smile when the Luigi’s Mansion motif was played in the music.”
Everyone’s excitement to see the movie has shown as well in the box office results. Between Wednesday, April 5th, and Sunday, April 9th, The Mario movie has made $377 million at the global box office; this has topped Disney’s Frozen 2 andAnt-Mann and the Wasp: Quantumania, according to Axios. The box office this year has gotten close to pre-pandemic levels for the first time in a while, according to Axios, making it a big focus to get people to continue to go to the theaters.
The timing of the entrance of this movie is not accidental. Dr. Carr stated, “Studios are kind of looking for what is the next thing. Well, you look at who’s coming of age, who has the power in terms of market shares, and who has kids, stuff like that. It’s sort of the millennials and Gen. Xers who grew up with video games.” The mixture of the current nostalgia being held by the current demographics, along with the financial successes by current video-game-adapted franchises, it does seem to indicate that the film industry itself is moving towards fully embracing video-game based movies. “There’s a lot of evidence that this stuff works. Just off the top of my head, Detective Pikachu did very well…. You have The Last of Us…with a lot of studios being excited about The Last of Us being such a big hit, and Sonic the Hedgehog,” Carr said. “…So, I do think that Hollywood is looking at this, and I think if Mario hits, video games are going to be the thing they start really plumbing to develop movies.”
Yet, the concept of video game-based films still has some polarizing opinions, despite the industry’s growing interest. Some fans welcome the concept. “I don’t mind video game-based movies at all. If it’s something I played a lot, I’ll usually be pretty excited to see it, even though there is always a chance they may butcher it,” Voskuil stated. On the other hand, some video game players are still cautious towards Hollywood. McElroy stated, “I think video game-based movies, in general, have not been that good. They either are cheesy with video game mechanics, or they are nothing like the game.”
Thoughts on The Super Mario Bros.
Movies and events like this can further draw generations together. After watching the movie ourselves, we can agree that the animation is incredible, and the background scenes are amazing; the story could have been improved but it was still fun to watch. Jack Black added a humorous tone, and he was an amazing casting choice for Bowser. It really brought back that nostalgia from the old Mario games; not only does the movie offer a sense of nostalgia, but it will also bring back the experience of seeing a movie in an actual theatre. Whether it is Mario on an old Nintendo system or Mario on the big screen in 2023, everyone can get behind the loveable plumber.