The Super Mario Bros. Movie is a massive box office hit despite the movie’s generally low critic review scores. Indeed, most people who have seen the movie tend to have both an opinion about the movie itself and those critics who gave it mixed-to-negative reviews. That crowd now includes Super Mario Bros. creator, Shigeru Miyamoto.
In an interview with Japanese media representatives (as translated by Video Games Chronicles), Miyamoto addressed pretty much every aspect of the Super Mario Bros. movie. Naturally, the subject of the movie’s somewhat poor critical reception (at least in the West) came up. Unphased, Miyamoto was surprisingly direct regarding those reviews and how they may have contributed to the movie’s success.
“I did have a level of expectations that this movie would also do well, but I was very surprised that it went beyond what I could have imagined when it finally came out,” Miyamoto says. “You need some luck to achieve this level of success for a film. While many foreign critics have given the movie relatively low ratings, I think that also contributed to the movie’s notoriety and buzz.”
Miyamoto goes on to say that he hopes that some fans will eventually say that “the definition of what a movie is has changed because of this film.” That’s…ambitious, though it seems safe to say that many fans (especially younger fans) seem to be generally pleased with how the movie turned out.
As for the idea that the negative reviews generated more buzz…well, there could be something to that. As we’ve seen with other movies associated with franchises with massive built-in fanbases, anyone coming into this movie with an “I love Mario!” attitude could certainly feel the need to defend the billion-dollar property from critical analysis. Of course, anyone who was that big of a fan of Mario was probably going to see the movie anyway, so the reviews probably didn’t matter that much to them in that sense.
There’s also the argument that the reviews could have generated some level of “Is it really that bad?” curiosity from those on the fence about the movie. Again, though, it’s doubtful that level of curiosity would have had as big of an impact on a movie that wasn’t already associated with a major (and generally beloved) franchise. Super Mario is a big enough part of our collective pop culture consciousness to drum up a general level of interest among a lot of people. When that interest is spiked by some old-fashioned drama, it certainly doesn’t hurt.
As Miyamoto suggests, though, those negative reviews did probably help fuel a fire that led to the Super Mario Bros. movie surpassing all box office expectations (especially in its opening week). The old “there’s no such thing as bad publicity” angle isn’t as solid as you might think, but yeah, those negative reviews probably did help add just a little more interest to something a lot of people seemed generally interested in on some level.
In any case, it’s interesting to hear Miyamoto directly address the negative criticisms in such a way. The Super Mario games aren’t necessarily universally beloved, but most of the mainline titles tend to enjoy incredibly high review scores and widespread industry acclaim. It’s difficult to say how much that critical praise ultimately matters to Miyamoto at this point in his career, but he certainly doesn’t seem to be bothered by the negative reviews in this instance.