You don’t have to know a thing about all those 50s and 60s alien invasion movies to enjoy this one. I mean, sure, it’s going to help but it’s really not necessary. Hell, I was just a teenager when this movie came out and I freaking loved it. Mars Attacks is a hilarious parody of all those alien invasion movies of the old but it also competently stands on its two feet. It’s highly entertaining featuring charming special effects and even better cinematography. It tells you everything you need to know about it in the opening two minutes.
Deer on fire run next to a remote farm scaring the shit out of a family with a sneaky flying saucer leaving their yard in the background. It zips back to Mars where an army of these spaceships is preparing to attack the Earth. Mars Attacks is a movie that doesn’t take itself seriously and neither should you. The huge success of another 1996 alien invasion movie Independence Day made it feel like a dorky and uncool younger brother of that juggernaut. However, in the coming decades, it finally started getting the recognition it deserves.
The cast of Mars Attacks is simply phenomenal led by none other than Jack Nicholson as the president of the US. We also have Pierce Brosnan, Danny DeVito, Natalie Portman and even Jack motherfucking Black! The list doesn’t stop there but I don’t want to hang on to this element of the movie too much. I want to talk about how the pacing was just right and how the political satire made it feel much smarter than it looks. This is one of those entertaining science fiction comedies that require zero brain effort and offer a lot in return.
It’s exactly noon at the White House and the president is in conference with his closest advisors. It would appear that the aliens are real and they seem to be on their way to Earth. It’s a momentous occasion and everybody is looking to take advantage of it. The landing site is just outside Las Vegas and the air is full of tension, hope, and excitement. What can we learn from them and what can they learn from us? How’s our life going to look like after this unique event? All those questions will be answered in just a few moments…
Considering the fact that this movie was made in 1996, CGI looks pretty good. And it stood the test of time becoming even more cuter and charming over the years. What makes Mars Attacks work so well are the colorful characters from all walks of life. Sure, they’re stereotypical but that was the point. And in the hands of a cast this good they became even better.
Moreover, since these are stereotypical movie characters you’ll be able to recognize scenes from many other movies. Both those who came before and after this one. I still don’t understand how they were able to get away with a PG-13 for this one. We have aliens cutting people in half and melting them completely along with severed heads still kept alive by their technology. I mean, I’m not complaining, just noticing.
And these special effects were quite believable too. I know it sounds strange to say that Tim Burton is the director of this highly entertaining and cheerful science fiction movie but it’s the truth. I guess he wanted a break from all those passion projects and decided to make just a fun movie.
And probably pays homage to the movies he grew up with. Finally, if you’re looking for movies like Mars Attacks I suggest you check out Galaxy Quest, another hilarious science fiction parody. And the early 2000s movie Evolution is also a great choice.
Director: Tim Burton
Writers: Len Brown, Woody Gelman, Wally Wood
Cast: Jack Nicholson, Glenn Close, Annette Bening, Pierce Brosnan, Danny DeVito, Martin Short, Sarah Jessica Parker, Michael J. Fox, Rod Steiger, Tom Jones, Jim Brown, Natalie Portman, Pam Grier
Fun Stuff: Tim Burton was hoping to use claymation or stop-motion animation to portray the alien Martians. However, since nobody of his regulars was available he finally agreed to let the ILM do their magic with CGI.