The goal of a movie like Super Mario Bros. is to capitalize on childhood nostalgia. But as many geek-culture franchises have revealed in the past, nostalgia is a double-edged sword. Nintendo fans have a very specific idea about what Mario should look and sound like, and this isn’t it.
Chris Pratt was already a cataclysmically unpopular choice to voice Mario, so when the film’s first trailer arrived last week, it was met with universal derision. Since then, fans have begun to share their ideas to “fix” the movie, starting out with replacing Pratt’s dialogue as Mario—either with audio from the games, or with an AI-generated Mario voice. (There’s a lot of love out there for the original Mario/Wario/Luigi voice actor Charles Martinet, who will only play a cameo role in the movie.)
@itsnickholiday The perfect ai generated voice for mario #interesting #video #videoviral #mario #ai #voice ♬ Love You So – The King Khan & BBQ Show
@fajahuno Super Mario Movie FIXED!!! #supermariobrosmovie #mario #supermario #nintendo ♬ dumb dumb – sped up – mazie
This kind of “fandom knows best” attitude can often be obnoxiously demanding—or even offensive, when you’re talking about something like racist Disney fans trying to whitewash the Little Mermaid remake. But in this case, it’s easy to see where the disgruntled Mario fans are coming from. Pratt is already a divisive figure, and between this and Garfield, he’s come to embody a major controversy in animation fandom: Hollywood stars taking roles that would otherwise go to specialized voice-actors. And that’s before we even get into what Pratt’s Mario sounds like.
In the new trailer, Chris Pratt basically sounds like Chris Pratt. The film abandons Mario’s Italian accent and cartoonish style of speech, meaning he now just sounds like an average American dude. Pratt’s performance immediately became a punchline, prompting calls for him to be replaced.
Meanwhile, other Mario fans have qualms about the film’s visual choices—some more serious than others. Unlike with the Sonic movie (whose initial aesthetic was so unpopular that it led to a drastic redesign), Nintendo fans aren’t overly bothered by Mario’s appearance in the trailer. However there’s already one viral fan edit that gives Mario a game-accurate makeover, along with optimistic fan theories that he will have a look different in the final movie. Plus, of course, the facetious campaign to give Mario a bigger butt:
Do people sincerely care about Mario’s ass? Doubtful. But his juicy butt is a meme in Nintendo fandom, and since the movie poster pictures Mario from the rear, people immediately noticed that his ass is significantly flatter than usual. “Fans should demand a Mario redesign like they did with Sonic but only to make his ass bigger,” reads one of the top responses on Twitter, which pretty much captures the spirit of fan reactions to this movie.
Honestly, the backlash against Super Mario Bros. is almost impressive. By any normal standards, the trailer looks fine. But Pratt is such an unpopular casting choice that his performance turned Mario fans against the movie, leading people to criticize comparatively minor issues.
Unlike with the Sonic redesign though, Mario‘s creators are unlikely to cater to the backlash by replacing Pratt. As a well-known star with previous voice roles in The Lego Movie and Onward, he’s a totally reasonable casting choice, and A-listers only get fired if there’s some kind of serious scandal. The irony here is that Pratt may well be more popular among casual viewers than among devoted Mario fans. And while most franchises try to court that kind of core fanbase, they don’t necessarily make up a lot of the audience. The backlash may not make any impact on the film’s success.