Mars Attacks!

02/01/2018 07:47

Film: Mars Attacks!

Year: 1996

Director: Tim Burton

Writer: Jonathan Gems

Starring: Jack Nicholson, Pierce Brosnan and Sarah Jessica Parker



This film was one that I watched a lot growing up. I remember it hitting the movie channels and it is just so quirky, that myself and I would watch it all the time. She ended up getting it on VHS, which got a lot of use as well. I really enjoyed it as a child, but it wasn’t until I got older that I really started to understand how deep this film is. The synopsis is Earth is invaded by Martians with unbeatable weapons and a cruel sense of humor.

It then begins showing us a farm house. A man on a tractor asks an Asian man if he is cooking up a feast. The Asian man tells him he is not, but then we see a herd of cows run by that are on fire. We then see a spaceship as it flies away. We then see that this spaceship is from Mars. More of them come and have a blockade around Earth.

We then meet that the president of the United States James Dale (Jack Nicholson). His press secretary is played is Jerry Ross (Martin Short). He has two military officers in the oval office as well General Decker (Rod Steiger) and General Casey (Paul Winfield). Jerry wants to go to the press and just wants to know if they should when they should go on. General Decker on the other hand wants to keep this private and get ready for war. President Dale wants to gather more information first, but he wants to go with Jerry’s plan to inform the nation.

Some of the other people we follow are President Dale’s wife Marsha (Glenn Close), who is of course the first lady. They have a daughter Taffy (Natalie Portman). Also in Washington D.C. is Louise Williams (Pam Grier). She’s a bus driver that is divorced, trying to raise two boys who are handful. They’re named Cedric (Ray J) and Neville (Brandon Hammond) and currently they’re giving their mother a headache by playing hooky from school. The ex-husband is Bryon (Jim Brown), who is a former heavyweight boxing champion. He currently lives in Las Vegas and working as a greeter at a casino. He is trying to work things out with Louise with a plan of a visiting soon.

Also in Las Vegas is Art Land (also Nicholson) whose a shady businessman trying to open up a new hotel. He is married to Barbara (Annette Bening).

In between them is a family that lives in the middle of nowhere in the Midwest. There is Richie Norris (Lukas Haas). His older brother is Billy Glenn (Jack Black) who is in the military. Their father is Joe Don Baker and mother is O-Lan Jones. They also have a grandmother that lives in a nursing home named Florence (Sylvia Sidney). She is a little bit out of it though and calls everyone Billy. Sharona (Christina Applegate) is dating Billy Glenn as well.

The final people to introduce are a couple of reporters who live together. Nathalie Lake (Sarah Jessica Parker) is one of them and does fashion pieces mostly for her station, but she works for a more popular channel. Jason Stone (Michael J. Fox) works for a rival company, GNN, and they seem to be constantly coming in second place.

President Dale cuts in to let everyone know about the Martians coming to Earth. He tells them that they’ll be contact and not to panic. Soon after, Professor Donald Kessler (Pierce Brosnan) goes on Nathalie’s show and it is interrupted by the aliens. Their message is translated to want to meet up. General Casey is given command and everyone thinks it’s going smoothly until the aliens attack. President Dale is clinging to the notion that it was just a misunderstanding or is Mars here to conquer Earth?

Something that I alluded to earlier was that I never really picked up how deep this parody actually goes. The first thing that I realized was this is kind of a take on War of the Worlds while also being based off a trading card series back in the day. We really are getting these aliens coming to Earth, unprovoked and trying to wipe us out. There is a hilarious update to what can kill these aliens though for sure.

It is after this viewing that I realized how much deeper this story of the film goes to and is extremely socially relevant now. President Dale seems like a good president, but he is really just worried about doing the right thing to get re-elected. Jerry just really wants to be transparent with the people as possible, which is ironic as he frequents hookers. General Decker is your typical Right wing, as he just wants to go to war and kill, then you have General Casey who is timid and completely the opposite. Professor Kessler really just doesn’t want to be wrong as he is a man of science. General Decker of course doesn’t want to listen to him either. The crazy thing is though, the film is showing that all of these people are wrong in what they want to do and it causes the deaths of a ton of people!

I also couldn’t miss the parallels here to coming to America or other places that were colonized. Something that confuses me is the first message that is sent, I almost feel like was a declaration of war and our machine misinterpreted it. It is an interesting assumption that we can defeat these aliens so easily if it was an invasion, which was much like what happened during colonization to the indigenous people.

All of this is wrapped in an outrageous comedy. There were parts that I know were coming that still really make me laugh. I like the idea that these aliens have been coming to Earth and have been investigating things. It is fun seeing them experiment to learn more and some of things that happen are just great.

With that said, the pacing of this film is really good. It doesn’t waste any time from the beginning to get right into it. There is such a big cast to introduce, but I think it does a great job at making it seem natural and quite seamless. The invasion happens pretty soon after that and that gets just progressively worse. I like how it ends and what is used here to fight them off, it still cracks me up to this day. It is an interesting parallel for sure what was used in War of the Worlds.

I’ve already touched on it, but the acting in this film is great. I can give credit to everyone, but I’ll do my best. Nicholson is hilarious and playing two quite different roles. It is after a film like this you really see his range and what he can do. Close is solid as his vapid wife. Bening is interesting as she is a new age hippie. She is also one of the first to realize that these aliens aren’t friendly and sticks to this. Brosnan is solid as is DeVito. Short, Steiger and Winfield all make for a interesting trio who don’t always see eye to eye. Brown, Grier, Parker, Fox, Haas, Portman and the rest definitely round out the film for what is needed and I don’t think there’s a bad performance if I’m honest.

Something I’ve been waiting to cover would be the effects of the film. Coming in, you really know this is a CGI fest. What I’m surprised by though, is that most of it is really good. I’m not saying all of it, as there are times that I thought that it doesn’t look good or hold up, but for the most part though, it is on point. The Martians, their weapons and vehicles are all CGI as well as the attacks they do. It looks pretty solid though actually. The film is shot very well also.

I couldn’t end this without talking about the soundtrack of the film. I think that it does a really good job at sounding like a 1950’s sci-fi for a good stretch, which is another thing that it is parodying. There is a song that is pretty hilarious that you will know exactly what I’m talking about if you’ve seen this or end up watching this. I also liked how the aliens sound when they talk as well. This all just fit the film for me.

Now with that said, this film is one that I really enjoyed growing up. It wasn’t until I got older that I really understood how deep this film really is. It does poke fun at not only War of the Worlds, 50’s sci-fi films, but it also looks at political and social ideas from the past and present as well. It is paced in a way that it moves fast and never gets boring. The acting definitely helps there and the CGI surprisingly holds up. The soundtrack definitely fits for what is needed and the aliens talking are hilarious. Now being that this is part comedy, that prevents me from giving this a higher rating, but I don’t know if you can present how this film is in a more serious way without being a remake. I definitely think this is good and should be given a viewing as it is fun.


My Rating: 8 out of 10