"Trust the Fungus."
The silly--yet remarkably deep--catchphrase that lies at the heart of the Super Mario Bros. film has echoed in my head ever since I started this website back in 2007. The primary goal of all the research, interviews, articles, and screenings was to get people thinking and talking about the film again. To help cement its cult classic status in the minds of geeks everywhere. And in doing that, Steven and I really--really--wanted the film to get a proper high-definition release so we can all enjoy Super Mario Bros. the way it was meant to be seen.
On November 3rd, 2014, those lofty dreams become reality when Super Mario Bros. releases on Blu-Ray, courtesy of UK distributor Second Sight.
Second Sight contacted us early in 2014 and wanted to get our opinions on what the fan community would like to see on a potential Blu-Ray release. We had a LOT of ideas, and SS worked tirelessly throughout the year to make as many of those dreams happen as they could. The result? A superb Blu-Ray and the definitive Super Mario Bros. experience. Read on for a breakdown of the entire package...
Some of the other reviews I've read online focus quite a bit on what the reviewer thinks about Super Mario Bros. as a film, without really touching on the technical aspects of the Blu-Ray. This review isn't going to have any of that. If you're reading, you should already know how we feel about the film and you should know exactly what you're getting yourself into.
So, how does the video quality match up against previous releases? The difference is quite a dramatic one. This website has a long track record of bashing the original 2003 Disney DVD release because of its strange non-anamorphic, full frame widescreen presentation. Second Sight did a new anamorphic transfer for this Blu-Ray release, and it looks fantastic. The film looks vivid and sharp. The added detail of the high-resolution transfer finally allows us to see details and easter eggs that we've never seen before. I don't think I'll be the last person freeze-framing through this thing--literally each scene has something new to discover.
Print damage artifacts (abundant in the DVD) are a lot less common. Black levels seem deep and pure, which is a huge help since many scenes in the film take place on the neon-centric Dinohattan streets or in the dark corridors of Koopa's Tower. Upon closer comparison to the original DVD, it also looks like the Blu-Ray offers a marked difference in the color grading. Many scenes on the original DVD had some oversaturated pinks and blues that seemed to be overlaid on the scenes. On the Blu-Ray, the colors seem more standardized and pure, but still pop from the screen when appropriate. In almost every way possible, it's a completely different looking film than we've grown accustomed to over the years, and that's a very good thing. And in case you're wondering, the way the film is presented on this Blu-Ray (corrected colors and all) is what we've experienced during our theatrical screening events, which darn near reassures me that this is exactly the way the film was intended to be seen.
If you thought that the video quality would be the only major selling point for this release, think again. Second Sight pulled out all the stops and licensed 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio for this release. When Steven and I watched the film on the big screen for the first time during our initial 19th anniversary screening, the audio quality blew us away, even more than the video. Personally, when I was watching the old VHS or DVD releases, I could imagine what kind of quality jump that an HD video transfer could provide. But with audio, I had no idea what I was missing out on. During the theatrical screening, there was all sorts of added flair that greatly enhanced the experience.
At the time of this review, I was only able to experience the Stereo PCM option for audio. However, it still sounds much better compared to the DVD. The sound does has more depth to it though, with clear dialogue and balanced score and sound effects. When I get a chance to watch the film with its proper 5.1 DTS-HD sound mix, I'll update this section of the review.
The experience doesn't just stop with the film itself, either. This release also includes an extensive amount of special features, some of which (I know) will be the main reason some fans will pick this up. Included on the disc is the 60-minute "This Ain't No Video Game" Documentary, the original "Making Of" featurette, the original trailer, the original electronic press kit, and a series of behind-the-scenes and storyboard galleries.
Obviously the biggest and most hyped special feature is the "This Ain't No Video Game" documentary. It features quite an extensive list of people with whom new interviews were recorded: Co-directors Rocky Morton and Annabel Jankel, Producer Roland Joffé, Actors John Leguizamo and Richard Edson, Writer Parker Bennett, Production Designer David L. Snyder, Art Director Walter P. Martishius, FX Artists Paul Elliot, Vincent Guastini and Rob Burman, Visual FX Designer Chris Woods, Editor Mark Goldblatt and Creature Designer Patrick Tatopoulos. The documentary also features Archival interviews with Bob Hoskins and Jake Eberts. Overall, the documentary provides an excellent view into the production, reception, and legacy of the film. Since 20 years have passed, many of the people interviewed are able to speak openly and thoroughly about their experience. You'll also hear commentary on what they think of Super Mario Bros. now and how popular opinion has shifted to provide the film its cult classic status. And, the documentary is featured in 1080p HD quality to boot!
The original "Making Of" featurette was produced to promote the film upon its release in 1993. The 18-minute featurette contains archival interviews with many cast and crew members, and has lots of footage from the filming. Of course, compared to the new documentary, the feature has a more positive slant towards the film, since it's meant to be a promotional piece. In case you were wondering, the featurette is very similar to the "Behind the Scenes" feature included with the VHS Screener. This is the full, complete version and even has some footage from deleted scenes if you know what you're looking for.
If you wanted even more behind-the-scenes footage, the original Electronic Press Kit should fit the bill nicely. It's 30 minutes of footage loaded with interview featurettes, soundbites, actual B-Roll footage from filming, movie clips, and a trailer. These EPKs were sent to TV studios for them to utilize while reporting the film. It's an incredible rarity to get the entire thing in its complete form.
Finally, the BTS and Storyboard galleries are presented as video slideshows that will take you through a particular scene or aspect of production. Some of the storyboards feature scenes from some of the earlier, more adult-oriented drafts (featuring an Schwarzenneger-esque Koopa). The Walter Martishius set design photos are particularly stunning--they're very moody and interesting to see how he incorporated game characters and motifs into Dinohattan structures. In short, it's nice to be able to pick your favorite aspect of the film's production, sit back, and watch a slideshow of the content.
No, there aren't any full deleted scenes (other than the ones contained in the EPK). And yes, it's a Region B release, so if you don't live in the UK it'll be a bit of a hassle to get it working. Overall, Second Sight has really outdone themselves with this release. As fans, we've wanted a high-definition transfer of the film for ages--something we could appreciate and enjoy for years to come. But with this Blu-Ray, we've gotten so much more than that. Not only did we get an excellent version of the film, but we got a ridiculous amount of special features that most big-budget films don't even get nowadays. Without a doubt, it's the definitive Super Mario Bros. experience. If you're a fan, you owe it to yourself to pick this up.
Ratio: 1.85:1 / 1080p / 24fps
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1/LPCM Stereo 2.0
Main Feature: 105 Mins
English Subtitles for the Hearing Impaired
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