Hey! Have you gone to see the latest video game movie sensation? It’s gotten some rough reception from critics, but audiences have been crazy about it!
I… didn’t like it. Well, I kinda did. It’s complicated.
While the copious references to the game series were great, the plot itself was rote in a boring, uninviting way. I’d like to try and analyze the movie’s storyform to see if it stumbles, and where.
Main Character Resolve: …?
Okay, I’m already stuck. Does Mario change by the end of this movie? His trouble at the start of the story is that he quit a safe job to start a risky plumbing company with his vulnerable brother, Luigi. He’s not big enough or strong enough to make such a change work. He’s not Super. Throughout his adventures, he never loses that desire to fight even when the world is against him; he only gains the capacity to be Super. That sounds like he’s Steadfast to me. But that would mean his Influence Character, who almost certainly is Princess Peach, Changes in some fundamental way. Which… does she? Hm.
Since I’m a little stuck here, I’m gonna jump to the Overall Throughline.
OT Driver: Decisions
As I mentioned previously, the story is driven by Mario’s decision, right before the movie starts, to open up a plumbing company. Mario also makes the notable decision to plunge (heh, plumbing humor) into the Brooklyn sewer in search of the faulty pipe, the decision to seek out Princess Peach, the decision to fight DK, and all throughout the movie the decision to keep on fighting, even when the odds seem against him. Peach also makes the decision to talk to the Kongs, to take Mario along, and to (pretend to) marry Bowser. Decisions drive actions.
Mario’s failing plumbing company is defined by its lack of patrons, not any temporal basis. Bowser’s approach into the Mushroom Kingdom doesn’t have a strong temporal focus. The Kong Army is the last option for the Mushroom Kingdom’s survival. When this option (literally) falls through, Peach is forced into more desperate options. During Bowser’s invasion of Brooklyn, the only option left is to seize the Super Star–but how can Mario do it, when Bowser is so strong?
Bowser is defeated, and the Mushroom Kingdom gets its happy ending.
That mostly makes sense.
OT Domain: Physics
I’m torn on this one between Physics and Universe, but I think it’s a little closer to Physics, a la Star Wars, than it is to Universe. The story takes place in the motion and travel and dynamic pressure of the external situation.
OT Concern: Doing
Again, I feel like the connection between this movie and Star Wars is pretty stark. The goal of the Protagonist (Princess Peach) and her Kingdom is to successfully mount a defense against Bowser, however that looks. Obtaining the Kong Army is a secondary concern (perhaps a Benchmark) towards that process-based concern.
OT Issue: Skill
I’ve talked before about Mario’s fundamental issue: that he’s not Super enough to do the right thing. This also applies to Peach, especially since Mario becomes her champion later. As the Toads put it, “Look at us! We’re adorable!” They are incapable of defending themselves.
OT Problem: …hrm.
If we’re going full Star Wars, then the obvious choice would be Test, but Mario isn’t a Testy character, and neither is Peach. Peach doesn’t feel comfortable Trusting Mario until he has fulfilled her preliminary Test–and likewise, Cranky Kong refuses to Trust the Mushroom Kingdom until he’s Tested Mario against DK. But those seem… intermediary to me, more like Symptom/Response instead of Problem/Solution. So the Effect-Cause Dynamic Pair, then? Even if Test is the Problem and Trust the Solution, I can’t seem to figure out how Effect-Cause plays into Symptom/Response.
Now, if I wanted to start down here and work up, maybe a better conceptualization instead of Test-Trust would be Unproven-Proven. Mario starts his plumbing company without proving he knows how to make it work; they believe completing their first task will prove they’re really Super; before Mario has Proven himself through accomplishment, he’s “Not Important!”
But Mario Proving himself isn’t enough to stop Bowser. After all, he fails the obstacle course, he gets his butt kicked by DK, he gets blown up off Rainbow Road, and he gets whomped by Bowser in the final moments. The story makes a big deal about Mario refusing to give up, even when it seems hopeless. That kinda sounds like Ending vs. Unending. So if Mario is Steadfast, does that make his Critical Element Unending?
…wait, frick. That brings Test-Trust back again.
Okay, okay. Let me run down this line of thought. The Problem is Test, and the Solution is Trust. If Mario’s Critical Element is Unending, that makes the story a Start type–Peach needs to Start Trusting him. With that framework, the Overall Throughline is actually:
Which kinda makes sense! Mario has the fantasy of running a plumbing business, and later of being the savior of Brooklyn; Peach has the fantasy of persuading the unpersuadable Kongs to protect them from Bowser; Bowser has the fantasy of marrying a princess who will obviously reject him; the big climax of the story is Mario and Luigi finally living up to the fantastic image of the Super Mario Brothers.
Which makes the Main Character values:
I think Mario makes sense as a Be-er Approach. He defines himself by the person he is, rather than what he does. He wants to be a plumber, a champion, a hero. He stumbles throughout the story to do the things necessary to become the thing he imagines himself to be.
Is Mario Linear or Holistic? The default would be Linear, and I’m inclined to agree. He mostly lets himself be drawn by the whims of fate–their first client, the pipe rupture, the warp pipe, etc. He sees a problem and jumps to the nearest solution.
Let me know what y’all think!