LUIGI, WE’RE THE ALIENS: The Strange Cyberpunk Dystopia of the Super Mario Bros. Movie



INTERN: It’s me, sir. You called for me three minutes ago.

EXECUTIVE: So it is. You know kid, you remind me of myself when I had snakes for hair. (ROLLS OVER and EMPTIES A MOUTHFUL OF VOMIT ONTO PRICELESS CARPETING)

INTERN: Can I leave?

EXECUTIVE: Just a minute, just a minute. (TIPS COCAINE INTO NOSTRILS) I’m gonna let you in on a little secret. Between you and me. I’m making a movie.

INTERN: Are you actually making a movie or is this another of your opium dreams?

EXECTUVE: Both. I’m going to make a movie about a bleak cyberpunk dystopia, with a corrupt dictator ruling over a thinly-disguised sham of a democracy. The population will be facing a desperate resource shortage, whilst the haunting presence of the former government slowly strangles the city.

INTERN: That – that actually sounds good.

EXECUTIVE: Starring the Super Mario Brothers.


EXECUTIVE: And dinosaurs.


And so the world’s weirdest piece of dystopian fiction was born. The Super Mario Bros. Movie had several ideas that could have made for a decent cyberpunk move, but which were then backed up by such relentless, ludicrous insanity that attempting to describe the plot has the same impact on the human brain as head-butting a falling satellite. Enjoy.

GOOD IDEA: An overpopulated city state running on almost no resources…

“A few miserable streets and an endless desert.” That’s the description from the city’s own ruler. It’s not so upbeat, but then he has no reason to be: the world of the Super Mario Bros. movie is a shithole. Aside form the obligatory graffiti and weird hairstyles, from the very outset we see streets which are extremely crowded, suffering from major water and food shortages – to the extent that vendors are serving insects and small lizards – and the only commodities in abundance seem to be leather jackets. The outskirts of the city have been turned into a giant landfill.

Wait – how are they generating so much garbage when they have no resources? Plus, somehow it’s indicated that these problems are the result of President Koopa’s inept leadership – a leadership so bad that he’s managed to turn the majority of the planet into a desert in just 20 years (putting him on a Scar-from-The-Lion-King level of managerial incompetence). And while we’re on the subject…

GOOD IDEA: A corrupt, authoritarian regime leeching from its people like a parasite…

Right away it’s established that the city is run by an evil Dennis Hopper. And believe me, there is no-one I would rather see play a corrupt despot than Dennis Hopper (aside from Ian McKellen, but that goes without saying). The nature of the government is revealed in the very first few shots of the city: propaganda posters abound, places and currency are named after the leader, orders are given over loudspeaker, political prisoners are kept in tiny batter hen-type cages then used for medical experiments, and people are arrested for singing songs which criticize the government. Standard stuff.

Of course every maniacal dictator needs a palace: President Koopa’s looks like a small-town 90s nightclub from the inside, and from the outside appears to be… a corrupted version of the world trade centre.

(This hasn’t aged well…)

Like all good petty dictatorships, the government keeps up a pretence of democracy – propaganda posters tell the populace to ‘Vote Koopa’, and even the very title of ‘President’ has democratic pretensions.

But why does Koopa need to keep up the pretence of elections? The previous government was an absolute monarchy – as far as we know the populace have absolutely no concept of democracy. So why maintain the charade? More importantly, why do they have their own statue of liberty when the only governments they’ve ever known are absolute monarchy and then dictatorship?

We’re supposed to presume the last monarch was benevolent and wise, but Koopa himself states that ‘[the king] always wanted to be everywhere’, so it sounds like he had some control issues.

Never mind, by the end of the film the dictator is deposed and democratic, liberal government brought to all. Just kidding, they replace him with the former king. I’m not certain how that’s any better than a president-for-life, but by this point I’m having to drink modelling glue to the verge of gut-wrenching unconsciousness just to keep following the plot.

GOOD IDEA: A cruel and anarchic populace with no concept of cooperation

No wonder the leadership is awful, because damn the public are unpleasant. Mario and Luigi are mugged after spending all of 5 minutes in the city, then there’s the fact that motorists seem to have absolutely no problem committing vehicular homicide against innocent cyclists – and then keeping the corpse on the bonnet of the car, presumably as some sort of death trophy.

All well and good – it wouldn’t be very dystopian if everyone was pleasant and friendly. Plus, the population appears to be a little more advanced than ours was in the year this horrifying abomination of a film was released (1993) – in a later scene involving the world’s blandest nightclub, we see women holding hands and what appear to be two men dancing together.

If only they weren’t all lizards. That has to be the dumbest plot point of any film I’ve ever seen, and I still get night terrors from Baby’s Day Out. Why does a Super Mario film need everyone to be descended from dinosaurs? Why does an urban dystopia need the Super Mario Brothers? Why, after downing enough modelling glue to kill a cannibalistic horse, can I still feel my thumbs?

Anyway, at least the film has a downer ending – the portal between our world and the city is closed, presumably condemning the entire resource-deprived population to starve to death. Or die of thirst. Take your pick.

But at least the trade towers are fi- oh.

  • virtualchristine

    “What happens when you cross the Mario Brothers with Sci Fi Dystopia?” the gentleman tweets.

    It seems you discover that there is simply no pleasing some people.

    The Super Mario Brothers movie was not particularly stupid. Children love dinosaurs, and Mario, teens love dsytopian Sci Fi, parents will spend any amount of money to rid themselves of the afore mentioned for a couple of hours.Entire goverment fiscal poicies have been based on premises with less immediate sense.

    Perhaps your opinions would be slightly more coherent if you SNIFFED the glue, as any nine year old could have told you in my day. Your NASAL passages lead directly to your BRAIN. This is why the hapless Mr. Jaffe was putting the cocaine up his NOSE. If you have been drinking glue, you are probably merely suffering from mild asphyxia and a soon to be fatal toxic reaction. Though you are liable to feel your thumbs for the entire duration, the hemmoragic fever will likely make that seem a minor inconvenience. While you still have command of your rather protracted appendages, why don’t you get a fresh tube of glue, and have a crack at another 1993 sci fi classic. A corporation that spends billions on research and development bringing hundreds of prehistoric monsters back to life for commericial public viewing , and then use standard $ 1.95 per foot cattle fencing to control the little darlings. Or you could call your local equivilant of 911. Or would that be too extreme….

    • virtualchristine


    • Redfern Jon Barrett

      Dearest Christine, of course you are right – this article is a ruse to hide my secret love for such a wonderful film! Plus, the film stars Bob Hoskins’ moustache, which renders any work an instant classic.

  • virtualchristine