Mars Attacks sounds terrific on paper. A tongue in cheek alien attack film featuring a mega-cast of the past, present and futurely famous. Unfortunately most of them far better actors than this material deserves…
When the aliens – *AHEM* Martian-Americans – arrive, it is assumed that they must be intelligent beings who seek to share knowledge, and the President of the USA (Jack Nicholson) delightedly informs his nation of the breakthrough in inter-species relations.
The fact that the Martians are 3 ½ foot tall and look like a skull with a massive exposed brain enclosed in a clear dome isn’t at all offputting.
The fact that they converse in a loud obnoxious “ACK. ACK. ACK.” doesn’t bother anyone.
The fact that they kill the US Army General sent to formally welcome them, then lay waste to hundreds of onlookers desperate to be part of first contact is written off as a misunderstanding.
Once the Martians take out an entire body of government, then set to eradicating the entire population, that fact becomes a little harder to swallow.
But none of that should surprise the viewer of course, after all it is called ‘Mars Attacks’, not ‘Mars drops in to say Hi’.
The actual plotline is essentially irrelevant, which is why it matter not one iota that they gave it away in the title.
What is supposed to matter is that Tim Burton has amassed a cadre of talent to act dumbfounded, outraged and perturbed at appropriate times in a film inspired by a set of bubblegum cards.
Burton gleefully ignores standard cinema protocol and builds hero moments only to have the hero killed at the exact wrong point. He sets up scenes where love is about to find a way – then chuckles to himself when it doesn’t.
The film plays no favourites and obeys no conventions, the President of the US is no safer than singer Tom Jones, being Jack Nicholson doesn’t make you any different from being Jack Black (in one of his first films – he’s almost skinny here!).
Meanwhile the Martians poke, prod and test their human captives, again with allegedly hilarious results, but might I say that Sarah Jessica Parker actually looks new and improved sporting a dog’s head?
My main gripe is this: I know that this is all delightfully silly and deliberately juvenile stuff, but that doesn’t make it entertaining or somehow more worthy of merit. The fact that Burton set out to make a dumb film shouldn’t be seen as a positive, if anything he should be flogged for wasting his considerable talents on this indulgent crap.
I know that many viewers with ‘mainstream’ tastes see Mars Attacks as acceptable as they want to embrace and enjoy something silly, and feel they can only do so if said film is made by a man universally acknowledged as an ‘eccentric genius’.
I also know that many cinema aficionados and Burton acolytes see Mars Attacks as Tim Burton thumbing his nose to those same mainstream lemmings.
But know this. Regardless of who made Mars Attacks, who starred in it and why it was made; it is a laugh free, amateurish snoozefest, with a severe docking in score for the persistent stream of trite and misguided jokes and alleged sightgags and less entertainment value than a Saturday morning cartoon.
If Tim Burton wants to be all ironic and indulgent, let him do it on his own time. On behalf of Earth, I apologise to any extra-terrestrial beings who think we humans see this as ‘entertainment’.
Final Rating – 5.5 / 10. I dislike Mars Attacks more for what it is supposed to be than what it is. But with the cast, the budget and the talent behind the scenes, this should have been so much more than a childish and plain stupid vanity project.
I’d rather watch Battle:Los Angeles5 times in a row – with the sound way up – than sit through this again.