Monday, March 18, 2013

Is the 1993 film Super Mario Bros. a Derivative Version of Hamlet?

Super Mario Bros. Dir. Annabel Jankel and Rocky Morton. Perf. Bob Hoskins, John Leguizamo, Dennis Hopper, Samantha Mathis, Lance Henriksen, and Fiona Shaw. 1993. DVD. Hollywood Pictures Home Entertainment, 2003.

With this film, we move from the sublime to the ridiculous. I'm even embarrassed to say that I watched this movie—even with the caveat that I watched it while I was quite ill and at three times the speed with the subtitles on. It was still one of the worst films I've seen in a long time.

Why, then, did I watch it? Some people insist that it is a loose derivative of Hamlet; therefore, I screwed my courage to the sticking-place and watched it.

And I don't see much—if any!—Hamlet here. That makes it even more embarrassing, but I felt the need to write about it to prevent others from having to watch this film unnecessarily.

The plot involves a king who has been overthrown—well, devolved, really, into a strange fungus that covers much of the kingdom—and the attempt to get rid of the new king. That's essentially the extent of the parallels to Hamlet: A king has been dethroned. There aren't any quotations from the play, allusions to the play, analogues to the characters in the play (I don't believe that the Mario Bros. are Rosencrantz and Guildenstern or that the Princess is Ophelia—or Hamlet, for that matter), or other plot points related to the play.

The one redeeming element in the film is Bob Hoskins, whose performance of Iago in the BBC Othello remains one of the very best interpretations I've ever seen (he plays the role opposite Antony Hopkins, who is uncharacteristically awful as Othello—but that's another story). I have no idea what he's doing in this film, but I was happy to be reminded of his fabulous Iago.

So that you don't have to watch the entire film, I'm providing a brief clip that contains the very tenuous connection to Hamlet in the film:

video

Links: The Film at IMDB.


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Bardfilm is normally written as one word, though it can also be found under a search for "Bard Film Blog." Bardfilm is a Shakespeare blog (admittedly, one of many Shakespeare blogs), and it is dedicated to commentary on films (Shakespeare movies, The Shakespeare Movie, Shakespeare on television, Shakespeare at the cinema), plays, and other matter related to Shakespeare (allusions to Shakespeare in pop culture, quotes from Shakespeare in popular culture, quotations that come from Shakespeare, et cetera).

Unless otherwise indicated, quotations from Shakespeare's works are from the following edition:
Shakespeare, William. The Riverside Shakespeare. 2nd ed. Gen. ed. G. Blakemore Evans. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1997.
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