Mother (1991 film) (Johnsonverse)
Mother is a 1991 American-British science fiction film produced and internationally released by Johnson Studios, in association with the BBC, Toho, and Timothy Hill Productions, with 20th Century Fox handling distribution in the US, based on the 1989 Famicom game of the same name developed by Ape Inc. and published by Nintendo. It was written, produced, and directed by Timothy Hill from a story treatment by Shigesato Itoi, and stars Mike Vogel, Kate Hudson, Aaron Paul, Rob McElhenney, William Shatner, Jackie Chan, and the voice of James Earl Jones.
The movie follows the plot of the game closely, but focuses more on the United States military's efforts against Giegue's invasion of Earth than the efforts of Ninten, Ana, Lloyd, and Teddy (though they still appear and play important roles).
The first film in the Mother franchise, it is notable for being the last film released by Johnson Studios during Phil Stacker's infamous tenure as CEO; it was released on October 4, 1991 to mixed reviews, though modern reviews have been much kinder. It received an even more famous sequel in EarthBound, which was released in 1997 to universal acclaim. It was inducted into the National Film Registry in 2013.
The movie begins with a prologue, telling the story of Giegue, George and Maria. In the year 1988, NASA detects multiple objects heading towards Earth. Soviet cosmonauts aboard Mir report seeing "flying saucers", before contact is lost with the station. NASA sends the Space Shuttle Columbia to investigate, where the astronauts find the station destroyed. The Shuttle narrowly escapes a saucer and returns to Earth. Aboard the saucer, unseen aliens speaking in strange tongues tell their master that they have made contact with human spacecraft. Their master looks at the Shuttle, and calls it primitive yet functional. He orders the invasion of Earth immediately.
On Earth, the confirmation of alien spacecraft puts the world at extreme unease. US Army General William Landon (William Shatner) prepares all branches of the army for combat against extra-terrestrial forces. His advisors tell him that the aliens likely have technology far more advanced than Earth weaponry. Landon acknowledges this, and says they will fight to the last man. Meanwhile, in the town of Podunk, Idaho, a boy named Ninten (Mike Vogel), along with his friends Ana (Kate Hudson), Lloyd (Aaron Paul), and Teddy (Rob McElhenney), are watching CNN reports regarding the alien invasion. They come to the conclusion that they are the only hope for Earth. They set out on what Ninten calls "the final stand for Earth". What follows is a montage of recreations of key scenes from the game. After losing Teddy, the kids arrive in San Francisco to find the invasion underway. Alien craft relentlessly pound the city, destroying the Pyramid Building and abducting citizens. Gen. Landon mobilizes all forces worldwide, as do every other military. This leads to a montage of various cities worldwide coming under attack and the militaries clashing with alien forces, the destruction of major landmarks, and the deaths and abductions of civilians.
Ninten, Ana, and Lloyd come face to face with massive alien war machines in Prague. Spotting an abandoned Soviet tank, Lloyd hotwires it and the kids begin rampaging through alien forces. Eventually, they take the tank all the way to Paris, and spot the Mothership over the Eiffel Tower. The kids are beamed aboard the Mothership, where they see strange-looking aliens sending human prisoners into a large processer. The processor makes the humans into raw materials to create more weapons and war machines. Horrified, Ninten vows to kill Giegue. All of a sudden, the kids are captured by the aliens, who call themselves Sontarans. The kids are taken before Giegue, who tells his story and then engages them in combat. After a brutal, bloody battle, the kids manage to sing the Eight Melodies. But it has no effect, and Giegue takes on a human form and engages Ninten in a fistfight. Just as it seems Giegue is about to kill Ninten, Ana rushes in and shoots Giegue with a stolen Sontaran blaster. With his dying words, Giegue tells Ninten that they may have won, but his brother Giygas won't be as easy to defeat. As Ana and Lloyd carry the grievously injured Ninten to the Teleporter Room, fighting off Sontarans along the way, Gen. Landon leads a squadron of F-16 Fighting Falcons, armed with nuclear-tipped missiles, to destroy the ship. The kids escape just in time as the missiles go into a thermal exhaust port, blowing up the ship, at the cost of the Eiffel Tower.
On the ground, General Landon finds out that the kids were the ones who killed Giegue. After a bit of pondering and being shown Ninten and Ana's powers of PK, he declares them saviors of the Earth. Ronald Reagan presents the kids with the Medal of Honor, and they also receive the highest honors from many other countries, from knighthood bestowed by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, to the Order of Victory medal from Mikhail Gorbachev, as the kids themselves lampshade it with Ninten's response "Are we Mary Sues or something?". The night they receive the highest Australian military honors, Ana confesses her love to Ninten. They share their first kiss as the movie ends.
In a post-credits scene, another alien fleet is seen destroying Pluto. The aforementioned Giygas swears to avenge his brother's death, as off-screen aliens shout "Exterminate!"
- Mike Vogel as Ninten
- Kate Hudson as Ana
- Aaron Paul as Lloyd
- Rob McElhenney as Teddy
- William Shatner as General William Landon
- James Earl Jones (alien form; voice only)
- Jackie Chan (human form)
- Ronald Reagan as himself
- Elizabeth Taylor as Queen Elizabeth II
- Mel Brooks as The Mayor
- Larry King as CNN Reporter
For the role as President, Hill called on former President Ronald Reagan, who agreed as a favor to him; this was Reagan's first acting role since Hot Cuba (which was written by Hill's father Charles) in 1968, and his last overall before his 2004 death. Actress Elizabeth Taylor was selected to portray Elizabeth II.
The effects used
On its initial release, the movie received mixed to negative reviews. Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel gave the movie "two thumbs down" on Siskel & Ebert, criticizing the wooden acting and cheesy dialogue, while praising the effects, soundtrack, story, and costuming. Other critics gave similar views, though several praised Shatner's performance.
One reviewer from the San Jose Mercury News blasted the other reviewers for not seeing the point of the movie: it was supposed to be bad. The entire movie was meant to be a tribute to cheesy 50's sci-fi films, which often had wooden acting and cheesy dialogue.
In recent years, the movie has gained a large cult following. Modern reviews have been much kinder and more positive, praising its campiness and tributes to old sci-fi movies, with Siskel and Ebert revisiting the movie in a 2011 episode. Mother fans praised it for taking a different perspective on the game.
The film has a Rotten Tomatoes score of 67%, while its Metacritic score is 62 out of 100, indicating "mixed or average reviews".
Differences from the game
The movie takes many liberties from the game:
- In the game, Teddy is grievously injured but lives (back when the movie was made, Teddy's fate was unresolved). In the movie, Teddy is killed by the Sontaran war machines.
- In the game, Giegue's main troopers are the Starmen. In the movie, the Sontarans from Doctor Who are his main troopers (the film was produced in conjunction with BBC, which is owned by WBC Networks, and later on, even made the EarthBound universe part of the Whoniverse).
- In the Mother series, Giegue and Giygas are one and the same. In the movie, they are two separate entities who are brothers.
- The movie starts a week after the main characters return from the Magicant, and Teddy is with the party in the Magicant.
- The military plays a huge role in the movie, whereas in the game, no mention of any military is made.
- The tank is a generic tank in the game, while in the movie, it is identified as Soviet and is modeled after a Battlemaster.