Cert: 12 Runtime: 106 mins Director: Tim Burton Starring: Jack Nicholson, Glenn Close, Pierce Brosnan, Danny DeVito, Sarah Jessica Parker, Natalie Portman and Michael J Fox
Wow, he just made the international sign of the doughnut
Seeing Frankenweenie is out this week, I thought I would go back and make Mars Attacks! my blast from the past. I tend to forget about this movie, but when I see it on TV or DVD I always love watching it. President James Dale (Jack Nicholson) of the United States and his right-hand man, Jerry Ross discover that an army of Martian UFOs are hovering around the Earth, and everyone has a different response. Some, like Texan alcohol dealer Art Land (Jack Nicholson) and slimy yesman Jason Black (Martin Short), just want to make a profit out of it. Others, such as TV hostess Nathalie Lake (Sarah Jessica Parker) , Land’s spiritualist wife Barbara (Annette Benning), and the Southern-like Norris family, are excited, and some, like Dale’s wife, Marsha, and daughter, Taffy (Natalie Portman), don’t care. Richie Norris (Lukas Haas) is extremely intelligent but is only respected by his insane grandmother, while his older brother Billy (Jack Black) is favoured for joining the army. General Decker doesn’t trust the Martians and insist they fight, but General Casey is more optimistic. The Martians appear to come in peace but suddenly begin to use their super-powerful and technologically advanced weapons to wipe out the population and great structures. Soon, they attack Las Vegas, where the Norrises are living, where former heavyweight champion Byron Williams is visiting, where an obnoxious lawyer is gambling, and where Tom Jones is performing in concerts.
A few of us like grade B horror and sci-fi movies that come on late at night, we’re the crowd that watches Mystery Science Theater 3000 and Elvira. This is Tim Burton’s audience which is small compared to the mega following of Star Wars and Titanic. No wonder Mars Attacks! bombed at the box office but not surprisingly it instantly became a TV cult classic. Burton is extremely talented (the beginning of Mars Attacks with its great special effects, editing, music and camera work is masterful film making) but he chooses not to make mainstream commercial movies (except for Batman where he knuckled under to Warner Brothers) and yet his films are just popular enough to continue his career.This is a Tim Burton film which was made as homage to the sci-fi B-movies of the 1950’s. I first saw it in 1995/96, as a young kid I loved it, well to be honest I love any Burton movie!There are lots of characters in this film, and a very talented cast to play them. Jack Nicholson plays President James Dale, and also plays a more minor character named Art Land. Unsurprisingly, his talent and usual wry style help with the quality of “Mars Attacks!” Glenn Close, Pierce Brosnan, Martin Short, Danny DeVito, Sarah Jessica Parker, etc. also help make the cast as a whole a strong one.
As a comedy, this movie isn’t usually hilarious, but I still often laughed lightly, and found some occasional big laughs. Most of Press Secretary Jerry Ross’ (Martin Short) encounter with a Martian disguised as an Earth woman may not be among the strongest points, but the outcome is perhaps one of the funniest parts of the film! The over-the-top Martians can provide a lot of the humour. To add to the entertainment value, this sci-fi comedy also has many scenes that are bound to have viewers in suspense, plus the special effects and the set design for the inside of the Martian spaceship are very nice to look at.This film came out the same year as “Independence Day”, a more popular alien invasion movie, but I personally think that one is overrated and this one is underrated. I actually wasn’t impressed with the Roland Emmerich blockbuster at all when I finally saw it all for the first time last year, and think this Tim Burton film is SO much better! If you ask me, this one has better cast performances (nobody here is anything like Randy Quaid as Russell Casse in the other film or those who play that character’s offspring, thank goodness), more outstanding characters, and I guess a more entertaining plot. Another reason why “Mars Attacks!” is far superior is perhaps because “Independence Day” takes itself too seriously, which this other alien invasion film of 1996 certainly doesn’t. If you realize that this movie isn’t meant to be taken seriously, it could be fun to watch.