The Mario Bros. appear in over a hundred games, and from what I count, no less than five television shows, but I think it’s safe to say that they have never appeared as they do in the wonderful world that is There Will Be Brawl. Ingeniously conceived as a dark noir tale about Luigi’s investigation into a series of grisly murders in the Mushroom Kingdom, there are some things that could use improvement but the sum total of its parts makes this first episode (Twilight Ruin) a harbinger of good things to come.
I’ll start off by saying I know very little about the Mushroom Kingdom. I’ve played a handful of Mario Bros. games in my life from Donkey Kong to Super Mario Kart and enjoyed every one of them. My reason for bringing this up is to say that though director Matthew Mercer and writer-producer Zach Grafton have infused the show with their deep knowledge of the Mario Bros. world and characters (much of which goes over my head) they have also created a show that stands on its own, even with the piddling references I have at my disposal. Bravo fellas. (Ed. Note: Yes, that’s a Lakitu Brothers reference in the newscast.)
As one would expect, what partly started out as a joke among friends became instead something layered with a bit of depth and thought as to ‘what would it be like if this were real,’ that is, in a noir sense. In a way though it makes sense that it would take on this depth considering Grafton’s original inspiration, as he says, “basically I just really wanted to tell a story in which Kirby was Hannibal Lecter.” That’s an auspicious beginning — humorous, yes, but interesting too, because they didn’t go for the one note joke, but rather decided to explore that concept in a way that is truly reminiscent of current serial killer noir.
Mercer and Grafton told us the web audience has responded to the series in a very positive way (over 60,000 views on Vimeo), with fans even sending donations to help produce further eps. One glance at the site’s forum and you can see they’ve struck a nerve. A good one. From people pining for appearances of a multitude of characters from the game that inspired the series, Super Smash Bros. Brawl, to extolling the virtues of the amazing score, it is clear there is a rabid fanbase for the Mario boys. Speaking of the music, their composer, Daniel Schraer has done a phenomenal job of adapting the original music of the game into pitch perfect moody theme music that really sets the tone in a beautiful way.
The music, the costumes and make-up by Diana Tolin with help from JoEllen Elam, and even the shooting style all conspire to bring out the humor as well as the darkness of the tale in a believable (for this world) and fun way. It’s funny because even the come-and-go, sometimes bad Italian accents of Luigi (Matt Key) and Mario (Paul Durasco) lend themselves positively to the tone and humor of the show. The show falters in certain production value areas such as color and lighting, and could really use a better camera, about three more lights and a serious run through the post-production mill. However, I kind of want to give it a pass with these things for now because it’s a first ep and I have a feeling with a little more dough and some 20/20 hindsight, the makers will improve with each new episode. Even early Simpsons and Seinfeld look kind of terrible if you watch them now.
There Will Be Brawl is not perfect yet, by any means, but it’s the start of something potentially great. Apparently they are currently operating under Fair Use provisions and neither Nintendo nor the Mario Bros. creator Shigeru Miyamoto know about the show yet. “In a perfect world,” Mercer says, “Miyamoto would see the show, appreciate the humor and love that went into it, and give us his blessing.” Yeah, that and a boatload of cash to do it the justice it deserves (in a perfect world). Episode 1 is up now, with Episode 2 slated to come out in a few weeks.