Super Mario Bros Filmmakers Say Quentin Tarantino Saved Them

The 1993 Super Mario Bros was screened by Quentin Tarantino and the audience loved it.

By Robert Scucci | Published

John Leguizamo and Bob Hoskins in Super Mario Bros.

April 5, 2023, marked the release of The Super Mario Bros movie, and it’s eerily close to the 30th anniversary of the original 1993 Super Mario Bros film that completely flopped upon its release. In fact, the original film (starring John Leguizamo, and Bob Hoskins) was considered to be so bad that filmmakers Rocky Morton and Annabel Jankel were pretty much laughed out of Hollywood, and they consider the film to be a low point in their careers. This all changed for the husband and wife duo when Quentin Tarantino held a screening of the film at his New Beverly Cinema last month, and the film was met with positive reception and genuine enjoyment, according to Variety.

The saying “time heals all wounds” comes to mind when thinking about the 1993 Super Mario Bros. film. As the first major video game adaptation, it was both ahead of its time and misunderstood by audiences and critics alike. But on Quentin Tarantino’s podcast, The Video Archives Podcast, the Once Upon a Time in Hollywood director praised both Morton and Jankel for their creative vision and stated that he was especially fond of their earlier work.

One really important thing to consider is that Super Mario Bros was geared toward children, and those children are now adults with disposable income, as well as a platform to voice their critical opinions of the film. Before the internet was ubiquitous, the critic’s pen was a mighty sword indeed, but now that the target demographic for Super Mario Bros is all grown up, they’re finding that the 1993 film is actually quite enjoyable despite its quirks. Quentin Tarantino’s March 11 screening of the former clunker/fever dream saw fans lined around the block and genuinely enjoying the movie, much to the surprise of Morton and Jankel.

One of the biggest criticisms of 1993’s Super Mario Bros was that it was not faithful to the video game, unlike The Super Mario Bros film that came out this week. The new film, starring Chris Pratt, Anya Taylor-Joy, Charlie Day, Jack Black, and Keegan-Michael Key, is more in line with the Nintendo property. Though being faithful to the source material is considered cool, it’s not as cool as getting your film screened in a Quentin Tarantino-owned theater and a shout-out on his podcast.

Dennis Hopper in Super Mario Bros (1993)

But Morton has a solid explanation for why Super Mario Bros wasn’t faithful to the source material, and it had to do with a crucial scene at the end of the film that was cut by the producers. He explained that the movie was supposed to be a prequel to the video game and that at the end of the film, Mario and Luigi tell their story to Nintendo executives, who misinterpret their story (or take creative liberties of their own) to make the game. In other words, through the use of retroactive continuity, the original Super Mario Bros film was attempting to establish itself as the actual source material for the video game!

Starting at one point and working your way backward is a Quentin Tarantino motif in and of itself, so no wonder he was enthusiastic about playing the movie in his theater.

1993’s Super Mario Bros may not have been a blockbuster hit like the new film is shaping up to be, but it’s not without its charm. So if you find yourself itching to take a trip to Dinohattan, you better start digging through your old VHS collection so you can take a trip down memory lane. And just like the old Nintendo cartridges, you’re probably going to have to blow 30 years’ worth of dust out of the tape before tracking down a VCR.