- Charnstar Anderson
Super Mario Bros: The Morton-Jankel Cut (2021)
Sometimes a film will be released with heavy interference from the studio or producers.
The audience aren’t satisfied with the film.
The actors openly trash the final film.
The critics thrash the film.
But every now and then the film is given a second chance. To be re-edited. Remastered. Re-released. The original intended vision in all of its 4:3 glory.
Pictured: Only Zack Snyder understands aspect ratios peaked with VHS.
Ever since an earlier cut was discovered in 2019, die hard fans have been clamouring for this release and it’s finally here!
I am, of course, talking about the long-awaited, hugely anticipated, extended cut of Super Mario Bros. (1993).
Pictured: The only outfits that almost resemble the videogame.
Now anyone who knows me, knows how much I love this movie. But do I love it enough to want twenty extra minutes?
Spoiler alert: probably. I did pitch a hypothetical sequel back in 2018 and you can listen to that here: https://thatsnotcanon.com/picturerangerspodcast/episode26
In May 2019, a long lost VHS was discovered containing this earlier cut, and thanks to legendary heroes Garrett Gilchrist and members of The Super Mario Bros. Archive, the film has been lovingly restored in beautiful VHS glory.
Of course, by that I mean, it’s a VHS restoration. There’s only so much you can restore from VHS. It’s not exactly a format known for it’s high fidelity or endurance.
Pictured: I wish I could tell you.
On the other hand, this is a restoration. Similar to other fan-made projects like The Star Wars Despecialized Edition, the video isn’t just sourced from one format, and it’s not just one person doing the work. Using the edit found on the mysterious VHS, the majority of the film is sourced using a less damaged VHS. As such, it’s still a muddy image for the most part, as well as being presented entirely in 4:3. I’ve owned Super Mario Bros. (1993) on DVD for over 15 years, so I am used to the widescreen presentation, but I don’t hold that against it too much.
What I DO hold against it though, is the inconsistencies with the restoration. As it was clearly a large team, essentially every new scene or sequence is processed differently. Sometimes the Rough Cut VHS footage, which has timecode burnt-in, will suddenly cut in mid-shot, even if for a few frames. Other times, it will blend with the original footage and fade into the new shots. Some appear to use some form of AI to sharpen the image and bring back lost detail, but none of them look great. The really bad shots though are the more advanced visual effects shots; I assume all VFX shots in the Rough Cut VHS weren’t complete, so for some reason, they used a wide screen HD version. Not only is this a sudden jump in quality, making everything else notably worse, but it’s also squished into the new aspect ratio.
Pictured: Almost John Leguizamo.
This is gonna be bland and technical, but when wide screen or even anamorphic films were released on VHS, they went through a process known as “Pan and Scan” where they crop the most important part of the image to fit. It’s simple, and it’s still not great, but it’s far better than watching a squashed image. So why would they do this? Just crop it, you fools! And why not use the HD footage for everything else? Why just the VFX? Why not try harder to keep consistency?
Pictured: HD squished Mario in 4:3 vs SD Mario on DVD
I get that it’s a fan job and it’s still incredibly impressive, but inconsistent images are more noticeable than bad images.
10/10 for effort and intrigue
4/10 for inconsistency
This is where the rough cut really shines.
Much like the Snyder Cut (2021), a lot of the restored scenes provide clarity and continuity that were sorely lacking.
The biggest victim of the original theatrical release was easily Fiona Shaw as everyone’s favourite Super Mario Bros. character, Lena. With her sub-plot restored, her motivations are so much clearer and she’s a far more interesting character than just “Koopa’s Jealous Girlfriend with Great Hair”.
Pictured: Aunt Petunia with great hair and actual motivations.
The missing Brooklyn girls and everybody’s favourite love interest of Mario, Danielle, are also more fleshed out, making their story far more engaging. In the original, they were literally just there and we knew nothing about them except for Angelica, who’s from Queens.
Pictured: They could've just called her Pauline, but they didn't.
That being said, it’s not all good. Like how the Snyder Cut (2021) is literally just an Assembly Cut with completed VFX, this is literally just a Rough Cut. A Rough Cut is meant to be trimmed down for pacing, and some of the stuff that was cut was definitely cut for a reason. A few restored moments are things like a random establishing shot of the Mario’s plumbing van; several frames of a reaction shot from the Koopa cousins; a wide shot of an exposition scene that just followed the exact same exposition scene. These moments bog down the pacing and were cut for a reason.
Other moments, like the introduction to the Scapelli’s; the de-evolution machine turning someone into primordial slime; the conversation that turns Iggy and Spike against King Koopa make less sense to cut. The outcomes of all these scenes were all there, but with no origin.
I feel like the restoration could have included a fan edit. Take the good, leave the bad, and make a Super edit of the Super Mario Bros., but I guess beggars can’t be choosers.
I’m really hoping people are reading this without ever having seen the original Super Mario Bros. (1993) because none of that last segment would have made any sense.
You see, like all good Mario properties, Super Mario Bros. (1993) was a darkly comedic political satire.
Pictured: If more people watched this movie, maybe they wouldn't have elected Trump.
The Morton-Jankel Cut (2021) is surprisingly more so. When Disney got the distribution rights, they specifically wanted the darker and satirical elements stripped down, which were the best parts of the film. A lot of the parts that people complain about from the original, are the out-of-place satirical moments. Mistakenly people criticise them as dumb, rather than acknowledging that they are a comment on dumb things. With a lot of small but notable moments restored, the political satire is far more noticeable and not just wild speculation from nerdy video essays.
It also should be noted that Our Popcorn Dystopia – Some More News: The Movie (2020) has already spent a good hour discussing the relevance of the satire of Super Mario Bros. (1993) to certain recent political movements. I won’t go into details here because they have already said it far more hilariously than I possibly could, so, if you’re interested in hearing how the Super Mario Bros. (1993) was part of the popular 80s movie trope of “Donald Trump is a bad guy and how ridiculous it would be if he actually had power”, just go watch that film instead.
I already mentioned the pacing issues, but for the most part, this is a superior version of the film. Certain jokes have been restored in a way that are far more funny. For example, Luigi getting distracted by Daisy when he’s meant to be checking their messages for work. The joke is still there, but in the restored version, just the simple change of when the joke is delivered, makes the meaning of the scene and the impact of the joke hit much harder.
Pictured: I didn't even get this bit was a joke until I saw this version.
If you’ve seen Super Mario Bros. (1993) and, like me, you genuinely love it, then why haven’t you watched it already? If you’ve never seen Super Mario Bros. (1993) and you don’t mind really noticeable technical issues from the restoration, then I would say definitely dive head first into this. If you’ve seen Super Mario Bros. (1993) and didn’t like it, then also give it a watch. This movie is for everyone! I personally think that a lot of the complaints you hear about this movie have been addressed in this version.
Unless those complaints are like: “since when was Mario about an alternate universe where dinosaurs evolved into humanoids and there’s an asteroid segment that will merge the two worlds into one?" "Why is Yoshi a velociraptor?" "Why are Goomba’s terrifying tiny-headed monstrosities?" "Why does Koopa have blond hair?" "Why are Shy Guys just gimps?" "Why is Big Bertha not a giant fish but instead my sexual awakening?”
Pictured: The most erotic scene to be committed to celluloid.
If those are your problems with the movie, then GROW UP! A movie about saving a normal old princess from a normal old giant turtle is boring. Give me an interdimensional apocalypse any day.
Also, Ziggy and Spike now have an anti-Koopa rap. And, for some reason, they cut it.