This review contains spoilers.
I was inspired by a visit to the Tim Burton exhibition in Seoul earlier this year to revisit some of his films. First on the list was Mars Attacks!: a film I remember watching many times with my brother when we were kids (we had a copy of it recorded off of the TV – remember the days before DVDs? When you watched jumpy VHS recordings with the ads clumsily removed?).
I didn’t know Mars Attacks! was a Tim Burton film back then, but the big-headed, bulging-eyed Martians and the dark humour are definitely very Burton-esque. Knowing how much of a fan Burton is of Ed Wood and old Hollywood B-movies also helps Mars Attacks! make more sense. Mars Attacks! is a spoof of those monster/invasion Independence Day films (though it was released just before Independence Day).
I have to agree with some of the criticism of the film at the time, that it isn’t quite as funny or clever as it could be. Characters and moments often feel like that they have the potential to be funnier or smarter than they are. Such moments often end in silly over the top violence or cheesy lines.
There are some great scenes and some excellent characters, though, such as Sarah Jessica Parker’s head attached to a Chihuahua’s body, Jack Nicholson as the President and a Las Vegas real estate developer, and Annette Benning as an alcoholic new-ager. But the best scene by far is the final one, where Tom Jones breaks into song with an eagle perched on his arm as Martian ships sink into the sea. I wanted more of this – the credits rolled too soon!
There are a lot of stories going on in Mars Attacks! – perhaps too many for any of the characters to really gain any depth, but I guess that’s part of the genre. I still would like to have seen more from each character. A silly film, not great, but with a wicked sense of humour and tongue-in-cheek feel.
Mars Attacks!, released in 1996, was directed by Tim Burton and written by Jonathan Gems.