Tales of Two Dinosaur Cinemas
It was the best of films. It was the worst of films. The former being Jurassic Park and the latter being Super Mario Brothers.
Both films had in common dinosaurs, spectacular special effects, large budgets, and June release dates. But from that genealogy they evolved quite differently.
Jurassic Park lived up to even its own marketing megahype. The disaster-at-the-cloned-dinosaur-theme-park plot was an edge-of-the-chair thriller. Although the movie included well-known actors Sam Neill, Laura Dern, and Jeff Goldblum, the biggest stars were the foam-rubber/computer-animated Tyrannosaurus Rex and Velociraptors who considered the rest of the cast to be potential lunch. Steven Speilberg's wizardry made these ferocious beasts seem real.
The movie's few clinkers included some stilted dialogue and marginally developed characters (but no less so than most action-adventure films). The obligatory scientific exposition to give the film plausibility was handled decently, but the "humans shouldn't use technology to mess with Mother Nature" message was a science fiction cliché. The film had no new social ramifications, but as this summer's entertainment package of wonder and thrills it was unsurpassed.
Super Mario Brothers, in contrast, had no redeeming values at all. Knowing the film was based on the video game, I entered the theater without great expectations. Although I am a fan of sci-fi and fantasy films this one did not provide even minimal satisfaction. It was strictly for preadolescent arcade game fans.
The stunningly stupid script declared that the killer asteroid's impact 65 million years ago created a parallel universe where dinosaurs lived and continued to evolve into humanoid form. Dennis Hopper played the T-Rex-evolved villain planning to invade and conquer our world through the dimensional crossover point under New York City. The Mario brothers (Bob Hoskins and John Leguizamo, who did not look like brothers) foiled his plans and saved us all. What small glimmer of potential this plot had died from bad acting, trite and unbelievable action sequences, and other flaws too numerous to mention.
See Jurassic Park, buy McDonald's dinosaur fries for the kids, and let Super Mario Brothers become extinct.
Copyright 1993 Mark D. Stucky.
Originally published in the July 1993 issue of Integra.