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Mars Attacks!

Mars Attacks! (1996)

December. 13,1996
| Fantasy Comedy Science Fiction

A fleet of Martian spacecraft surrounds the world's major cities and all of humanity waits to see if the extraterrestrial visitors have, as they claim, "come in peace." U.S. President James Dale receives assurance from science professor Donald Kessler that the Martians' mission is a friendly one. But when a peaceful exchange ends in the total annihilation of the U.S. Congress, military men call for a full-scale nuclear retaliation.


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I first saw this movie when I was sixteen or so, not long after it came out on video. I feel sure the people who rented it only did so because of the "A-list" actors. I don't think they really "got it" and, at the time, I'm not sure I did either.over the years since then an interesting thing happened: I ended up watching this about four more times, twice when it just happened to be on and twice (the most recent times) through personal choice. It's safe to say that the damn thing just grew on me like insidious Martian mould. In 1996, I was really into science fiction, but more the "literary" stuff than silly old movies. I was a bit pompous about it all, in fact, so while I did kind of get a kick out of the movie the first time, mostly I just thought, "well, that's pretty silly, and surprisingly -- old-school!" and never really gave it much more consideration. With each subsequent viewing though, my immersion in old SF televisual classics and so-called b-movies had grown greater and certain things about this movie started to make a kind of ghastly, irreverent sense. I choose to just forget about the film being based on some old trading card series; I don't know anything about them, and maybe I'm missing out on something, but I think mars Attacks! works very well regardless as a kind of send-up of very serious and grave 50s and 60s low-budget SF "schlockfests".The funny thing is, I like a lot of those old movies, and I like them unreservedly. I don't find the form to be automatically "cheesy", too talky, too earnest, or anything like that. And I'm not a huge fan of parody for its own sake. usually, in fact, it leaves me cold at best, and a bit angry at worst, as peoples' hard work and dedication is lamppooned for a new generation with little sense of taste or respect. It's easy to be really contemptuous about mars Attacks!, and I think that was part of my initial impulse. I just didn't see the point in putting an "a-list" cast and director to work on what was essentially a copy of a plot from a 1950s B movie. Jack Nicholson's salary from this film alone might have financed two of those pictures!But then I thought about it a bit more. 1996 was the year Independence Day came out, too, after all. And what was this movie, this ridiculous blockbuster with the at-the-time state-of-the-art special effects and jumped-up movie stars, but a retread of 1956's Earth VS. the Flying Saucers? In fact, what were a lot of these big blockbuster movies but more expensive takes on what guys like Roger Corman, Val Guest and, yes, Ed Wood, had already done? Were they better just because they had a whole lot of money spent on them? NO!So, mars Attacks! is different because it's bald-faced about it, and that's really the extent of the parody. The more things change, the more they stay the same. The actors here know they're in a silly movie, and they're allowed to have fun. Nobody's expected to pretend this movie is anything other than what it is: a total unrepentent blast from the past.Sure, the ending is completely retarded. But it's ok as it's totally in keeping with the form! I like the build-up a lot. I enjoy the ridiculous stereotype characters, especially Ron Stiger's screaming red-in-the-face, practically foaming-at-the-mouth warmonger general. Jack nicholson as US President is so grave and sincere, it's hilarious; bang-up job from him, too. And there are so many adorable little cameos, gags and tributes. The music is nothing but loud warbly electronics done on an old synthesiser and it's the kind of thing that's both a terrific call-back to films of yore and something to annoy bothersome houseguests with. Tim Burton and Danny Elfman seem to have this relationship of trust going consistently, and I'm glad they went with this score instead of the normal bombastic stuff from sci-fi blockbusters of the 90s and beyond. About the gags, there are just too many to list, and a lot of them are over so quick you could easily miss them. This makes the movie have a nice re-play value, though, and is probably why I was always tempted to re-watch it even when my initial judgment was "kind of bad!". I haven't even talked about the aliens. They're ridiculous and awesome. I love their perpetually pissed-off duck-quack talking. They seem to have a sense of humour even though they're hell-bent on killing everyone. And I'm sorry I can't remember the name of the IMDB reviewer who said this, but I just love the notion (which I just came across the other day here after watching again) that the martians set out to destroy everything "uncool" about humanity. I never thought of it like that before, and I think he might be on to something!I also have to respect that even though Tim Burton got together a whole bunch of top-bill actors, everyone was not only (presumably) on board with the project, but most of them agreed to get killed off in sudden and undignified ways. I don't think anyone's acting chops were exactly stretched making this movie, but I hope everyone had a good time and enjoyed their cameos and generic parts and laughed along when they were dispatched. This is a rare beast for sure: a self-aware and slightly smug 1990s movie that still managed to win me over and put several big grins on my face. Try it!


This star studded dark comedy is a good film although it often drags and sometimes becomes too heavily burdened by the star power. The premise is simple: Earth is invaded by Martians but unlike what HG Wells envisioned, these sinister aliens have a different agenda. Looking at other reviews it is not easily to classify this film as good or bad- some love it others cannot stand it and then some consider it a guilty pleasure. See and decide yourself.


There is truth in (or around) comedy. Look at any great comedy work where the world is nuts, for instance The Bob Newhart Show, Seinfeld, The Three Stooges, Arrested Development or Blazing Saddles. They all have a straight man in its world of crazy to counterpoint the wackiness. They offer a voice to react to it and argue on behalf of the audience against it... for the side of sanity. When all the characters are crazy, it is like a lecture of foolishness with no real point. Comedy, like any story genre, needs an argument for all sides of the issue. Mars Attacks! was simply loony for its own pretentious sake. Note that I say loony, and not funny. Don't waste your brain cells on this train wreck. Better off enjoying a knock knock joke.


I had the pleasure of recently watching this movie and let me tell you it did not disappoint. Considering my favorite actor of all time is Jack Nicholson i already had this on my to watch list and boy am I glad I did. Martians have surrounded the planet with multiple alien warships and, after a failed peace treaty with them involving a dove released by a hippie, are soon invading every continent and country on the globe. The Movie focuses on many different characters as they deal with the invasion and the humorously cartoonish aliens. The cast in this movie is wonderful and features a slough of big name actors. Jack Nicholson Glenn Close Martin Short Pierce Brosnan Pam Grier Rod Steiger Micheal J. Fox and that's only naming a few. Tom Jones also joins our protagonists as a hilarious version of himself also on the run from the aliens. Tim Burton is a great director and always will be, he's had several misses but luckily this one takes the cake for me. It's definitely not for everyone, but if your into over the top fun romps like I am, give this a watch.