There are plenty of writers who will tell you that the only thing that separates the bad, the good, and the great are the amount of hours put in by the writer. Given his ratio of scripts written to scripts considered truly great, Max Landis is undoubtedly one of these writers. Say what you will about his persona or product, but Landis has an incredible tenacity; clocking in at nearly a hundred completed scripts is a surefire path to mastering the craft. And so arguably the most intriguing words in his recently revealed Mario manifesto are the first four pages, in which adult Max Landis reflects on teenage Max Landis’s writing.
From the start, he gets very real and tells us his fan script sucks – several times. He breaks down notes about some technical mistakes and style choices that may be helpful for aspiring writers to read. And then he releases the Kraken, albeit a deformed, mutated mess of a Kraken. As you may have heard, it’s 436 pages long (anything over 120 pages is considered stretching it), and has been called “insane” several times over. If you’d like to hear what some others are saying, jump on #landismario, or download the full script here.
I read the whole thing, and am here to serve as much of a guide as I can, though I likely will end up drooling and crouching in the corner by the time I am done recounting my experiences. Blah blah “grab a mushroom”‘ joke, blah blah “jump down the pipe” joke, okay let’s go.
[Most images below are by Darren Calvert, and based on the script]
1. Mario the Character Is Equally Insane as the Script Itself
Our mustachioed hero, in our reality that we understand, is clinically insane and absolutely miserable. He doesn’t fit in here and lives off of pudding, Playboy and pilsners. Everyone knows it too, but nobody seems worried about his mental state until he finds the Mushroom Kingdom and the truth about alternate realities.
Within a year he’s lost weight, perked up tremendously, aced community college, and accumulated a fortune entirely of gold (from all the coins, get it?). With this new wealth he controls the gold market, and leaves a paper trail for Detective Daisy Miyamoto (groan). Daisy is fresh off a breakup with Luigi, but she begins to question whether or not she should have left him. As she searches for her now-missing ex and his crazed brother, she unravels a thread that includes questioning Mario’s former shrink and current financial advisor (haha!) who tells her Mario’s mental state is unstable, manic-depressive, all the good stuff. He doesn’t even think Mario should have stopped therapy, but is content handling Mario’s gold and helping to harbor secrets of other worlds, pipes, dinosaurs, etc. What a quack.
2. Peach’s Real World Parents
Another main plot point tells us that in 1988, three children from the real world went missing and were assumed dead. However, they actually found a portal to Mario World and were happily living there. Their names are Craig and Patricia (siblings), and bad boy Wallace. Wallace becomes Wario, addicted to his powers in Mario World but using them for selfish gain (humans in Mario World are sort of like Superman on Earth – the natural environment gives us many advantages). Craig becomes the Mushroom King, his selflessness proving to be a catalyst for some solid leadership. And Patricia is Peach, the one and only, who chose to be a princess simply because she liked the title better than queen.
But in the real world, Craig and Patricia’s parents view their children as a cosmic mistake, and adopt two new children, pushing the proverbial reset button and even attaching the old names to them. New Craig and New Patricia seem to be working out well for them, or so the parents say through crooked smiles. This is right before they reveal that L. Ron Hubbard’s Dianetics has served a great source of inspiration in their new life with their “correct” children. That’s actually pretty dark, Max. Especially considering the “happy ending” comes packaged with all the likable human characters realizing they weren’t meant for the real world either, so they decide to live in a world where delusions are catered to.
3. Wario’s Plan/M.O.
Wario is hell-bent on total destruction of Mario World, and has been spending a year or so bringing heavy artillery from the real world into the fantasy land. Sure there are cannons with Bullet Bills and other cartoony weapons, but Wario brings uzis, tanks, helicopters and about everything else an army would need for world domination. These real world weapons have real world effects, and many people die deaths more befitting of a war movie.
Although, that’s basically what this is. The epic sprawl does indeed build to a final battle, and drawing comparison to things like Lord of the Rings isn’t hard to do. In fact, I think the only way this could ever begin to hint at working as a rough draft to something greater is if the trilogy format were adapted. Don’t get me wrong: this is not the Mario movie that we need or most of us would want. But it does have some strengths, one of which is that it knows what it is: easily defined as “epic.”
4. A Lot of Nintendo Characters Get Some Screen Time
Of the vast library of Mario’s games to take inspiration from, Landis seems to be drawn to a core group consisting of Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars, Paper Mario, Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door, Super Mario World (SNES), and Super Mario 64. Plenty of other references can be traced elsewhere, but these five pop up regularly. If you’ve played Seven Stars, you will recognize Mallow in the image above. He is used sparingly here, but his lightning attacks are true to form: destructive, mysterious, and graceful. I’m a big fan of Mallow, and was happy to see his Seven Stars comrade Geno also make a small appearance.
But the Non-Mario references are just as diverse. Off the top of my head I can remember:
– The dog from Duck Hunt (on a leash held by a woman wearing the grey and orange color scheme of the light gun
– Banjo and Kazooie (They are random brutes in the Mushroom Army)
– Conker’s Bad Fur Day (Conker doesn’t catch a break here)
– A character playing a Game Boy
– A character playing a Virtual Boy
– Luigi has a suit that is the same colors as the NES console
– There are so many freaking more.
5. Donkey Kong Goes Through Hulk-like Fits, Though He Is Easily Calmed
Luigi’s eyes are the ones through which we learn about Mario World and its secrets; Mario has been a hero there for a while now, and Luigi’s first trip is our first as well. The first big action arc comes from Luigi’s introduction to human’s powers here on this strange plane, followed quickly by a brawl with Donkey Kong. He has been wreaking havoc and cannot be satiated, except when pinned down by Mario and forced to say “Uncle.” When he utters the word he immediately regains his composure, and we learn shortly after that he is indeed a great ally.
Of all the crazy things I can point out about the script, I do like Luigi being our main character arc that we follow. Landis himself admits that way too many characters get arcs of their own, but the Luigi one is most justified. Seeing Mario through a newbie’s eyes lets us see Luigi’s potential while also attaching the reverence to Mario that he carries so well (he is rarely shy about being a hero). Plus, being Player 2 was my favorite anyway. Luigi’s fireball clothes were always cooler than Mario’s.
6. Mario Seduces Big Bertha
BEST SCENE HANDS DOWN. The giant fish who spawns smaller fish, Big Bertha, not only makes an appearance, she gets a love scene with Mario. Well, not exactly a love scene, but a seduction scene that involves professions of love. You see, Mario needs Bertha and her fish army, but she hates the idea of him being with Peach instead of her. Mario knows this AND USES IT TO HIS ADVANTAGE.
He starts coy, dropping a “Come on baby. Its-a-me, Mario.” She grunts. It isn’t long before he jumps several steps and goes straight for the kill: “But what we have is special; I could never love Peach the way I love you….” She takes the bait. “Oh Mario, my little marshmallow puppy, c’mere and give Bertha a kiss!” Which he does, followed by a “cobweb of slime” connecting their lips when they pull away.
It was at this point where I made the note to bring this scene up. However, after making said note and continuing forward, I found that this was the FIRST of THREE PAGES of a scene between Bertha and Mario, including Mario admitting he is a fool for her (as he swirls his finger seductively in the water), covering his face in her slime, telling her she is the glue that holds the ocean together, and finally climaxing with: “Mario runs his hand along Bertha’s side, and she wriggles in a slightly suggestive manner.”
Max. Oh, Max. We can’t thank you enough.
7. Funky Kong
Funky is used to good effect here, surprisingly (considering the gap of pages between when he is introduced and when he is relevant.) During an earlier confrontation between the Kongs and Wario, Funky brought shame to his kind when he fled the fight in a homemade airplane. While estranged, he discovered a portal between the real world and Mario World, and used to travel back and forth at will (nobody suspected a strangely dressed monkey because he would never leave his plane – he just flew around taking it all in). This discovery is the “mother of all pipes,” and is a dark, foreboding portal over what the Mushroom People call the Field of Broken Giants.
This field is a wasteland of planes from the real world that have accidentally flown through and crashed in Mario World. Funky’s shop where he makes planes is on this field, and Luigi convinces him to reunite with his kind and help the Kongs stand with the Mushroom people to stand against Wario. He’s pumped about an opportunity to clear his name, and crashes his plane into Wario’s army like a missile. This is of course after he transports Luigi and Toad to some key locations, just like the game. By the way, the Funky Flyer’s turbo lever says “Oh Snap.”
8. The Theme Park Ride/Animatronic Museum History Lesson
As I said earlier, Daisy is not content with giant mysteries being left unsolved, and her tenacity (spurred on by Chet Rippo) leads her to a weird abandoned museum, where they sit in a car on rails while being fed some exposition. An animatronic puppet of real life New Jersey Statesman Sir George Carteret appears, explains that when he was in power he had a leper problem, and that he had little choice but to sentence all the lepers to live in the forest, where their colony became the (fictional) town of “Crampton” where Mario, Luigi, Daisy and everyone else are from.
What the hell is this doing in a Mario script? Well, a good natured preacher named Zebediah decided to take food and provisions to the leper colony, and soon found a mysterious pipe in the woods. When the lepers went through to Mario World, they found themselves cured of the disease. This came at a cost, however, because they would also mutate on the other side, the leprosy acting negatively with the otherwise healing powers of the environment. After generations of multiplying and mutating, their kind became plentiful. These hideous creatures wear masks to hide their faces, becoming this story’s realization of the classic Shy-Guy. Hey-oh!
Finally, we have Kirby. Here the hungry pink ball of fun is sort of a keeper of the Dreamworld . When Luigi is near death, he appears to him and gives him extra strength while returning his spirit to his body. Most of the other characters don’t interact with Kirby, as he is one of the more obvious plot devices in this script.
However, when he does appear to another, it honestly was something I welcomed. After a final battle leaves all the principles wounded, Luigi is left with the option to kill Wario. But he doesn’t and decides to summon Kirby instead. Kirby opens wide and becomes a dark and spiraling vortex, which takes Wario to Nightmare World, this world’s version of Hell, and banishes him to an eternity of torment. Kirby disappears and thus starts our final scene, the “breath of fresh air” sort of recap that precedes the final credits of every Mario game.
Look, I’d be lying if I said this wasn’t painful to read at parts. It’s bad, and full of things that don’t need to be in there. But there were some undeniably entertaining moments, some in the least likely of places. Take this scene for example, between Peach and Bowser (who has joined with Mario against the greater foe, Wario):
A thought strikes me; if we were to land my four strongest ships outside the North Walls, and relocate the cannons so that they all faced the hills, they could serve as armed barricades.
That’s smart; but why not just land all the ships? He can’t attack us from the air.
If there’s one thing I learned from over a decade of fighting children, it’s that you should never underestimate your enemies. My fleet will stay aloft, I command it.
On the condition that they don’t violate the airspace of the Nimbans; the last thing you want to do is piss them off; there’s a strong chance they’ll just float away if they feel “disrespected.”
Well put. I must admit, Princess, collaborating with you is…enlightening.
It’s dialogue that would be right at home in a Mario game, especially one like Mario and Luigi: Bowser’s Inside Story, and I had to chuckle here. If you have a desire to make the plunge yourself, be our guest and point out other scenes that make you laugh, cry, cringe, or whatever. There are so many more notable moments that I skirted over recapping in my quest to reclaim my sanity. But if there is anything to take from this, its that if you want to keep writing, you should always keep writing. No matter how bad it gets. Finishing ideas, reflecting, and editing are as crucial to good writing as the alphabet. Just don’t forget to publish it so we can read it and make fun of it on the internet.
Also by Bryce Abood:
6 Ways Donkey Konga Out-rocks Guitar Hero
7 Great Moments From the Deadpool Movie Script
8 Insane Things From the Never-Made Oliver Stone/Arnold Schwarzenegger Planet of the Apes