What better way to combine music and media than to write about The Super Mario Bros. Movie? The movie and its music consist of many references to the Super Mario video games and make it a great transmedial product. I have seen the movie twice now and the musical easter eggs fascinated me the most, especially when I watched it the second time and discovered even more of them. Reasons enough to review how this is done.
The movie could be seen as a sort of prequel to how Mario and Luigi – The Super Mario Brothers – even got into the world of the game Super Mario Bros. in the first place. The movie starts with an advertisement for Mario and Luigi’s plumbing business in Brooklyn. In the scene where they watch their own commercial, you can see another character play a Donkey Kong arcade game, making sure the audience keeps an eye out for more references to come. Mario’s famous quote ‘Mamma Mia’, him not liking mushrooms, the appearances of baby Mario and Luigi, and the green pipes in the real world are among those.
Then we travel into the Mushroom Kingdom, which viewers should know from the games, things get even more interesting. We meet Toad, the most famous mushroom of all time, and we see him and Mario jump onto the giant mushrooms, a reference to both Super Mario Bros. and Mario Kart. Besides these references that are sometimes a bit too on the nose, the movie also has a very clever way of putting more subtle ones in for the real fans. Like Toad saying he loves to go on an adventure, which made me think of the game Captain Toad Treasure Tracker. There is also a moment when Mario gets a blue mushroom as a power-up. The audience that knows the games already knows what that will do…
The movie is thus pretty accessible for everyone to watch, but it makes it a lot more fun if you know the games and things referenced. The music plays a big part in this too. However, it does not just consist of music we hear in the levels or during Mario Kart races. There is a random selection of songs from the mid-80s in the movie too, which could be because that is the same time period the Super Mario Bros. franchise was born.
Furthermore, there is a fun play on the diegesis. In one particular scene, it feels like the music is non-diegetic, but when the camera zooms out we see Toad playing the theme on a flute. The same thing happens when Bowser plays one of the Super Mario themes on piano. It gives the movie a comedic effect that characters suddenly sort of play their own themes. The original song ‘Peaches’ performed by Bowser, gained much popularity after the movie’s release. It is a very silly song if you ask me, but its catchiness does the trick and it is mostly just fun to have a new Super Mario song with actual lyrics this time.
I think it is really well done how they combined so many different aspects of the franchise in one movie, with a focus on Mario Kart and obviously the Super Mario Bros. game, without overdoing it. Depending on the audience’s knowledge previous to watching the movie, these references have a variable effect. The way in which the creator waved old Mario themes through new music was very clever, although the use of 80s music still feels a bit (too) random. I personally could see the fun of it, but it might not be the most fitting thing in the movie. With the after-credits scene suggesting we might get a next movie focused on Yoshi; I am excited to see the developments of this continuing media crossover.