Another one of those films that everyone is supposed to have seen, and as a big Tim Burton fan I thought it was about time. Mars Attacks is a clever pastiche of B-Movies, taking on the well used alien invasion plot with a Burton twist. Not one to be pigeon holed when it comes to genre, Burton pitches it somewhere in between horror and comedy, with the aliens somewhat gruesome experiments raising more of a laugh than a gasp (who wouldn’t find Sarah Jessica Parker’s head on a chihuahua’s body funny?) This kind of horror comedy was visited again by Burton 3 years later in Sleepy Hollow and to an extent in Sweeney Todd. It’s clearly something he likes. The main difference for Mars Attacks is that he steps out of his usual Gothic world into the (far more colourful) world of Science Fiction.
The CG effects may look tired when compared to what we have today, but the design of the aliens is now iconic and with good reason. Their scrawny bodies and swollen heads encompass all the usual alien steriotypes but with an added factor that makes them that little bit creepier. Mars Attacks isn’t suposed to be a scary film per se, but there are a couple of classic “jump” moments to keep the audience on thier toes.
As usual, Danny Elfman puts his unmistakable stamp on a Burton film with his soundtrack, recognisable from the first chords, and the opening credit sequence is typical Burton, where we zoom around one or more objects in extreme close up, following a path which eventually reveals what we’re looking at.
The film is loaded with stars. Cameos include Danny DeVito, Michael J Fox and even Tom Jones. Cameos might not be the right word though, as no one really lasts that long in this movie, although Tom Jones does make it to the brilliant end scene. Nearly every face on the screen is recognisable, meaning you don’t get that usual problem of being able to assume the famous guy wont die till the very end. Jack Nicholson plays a great American President, complete with tear-jerking speech about the need to work together and learn from eachother despite our differences. Unfortunately for him, the aliens seem to be immune to pathos. Alongisde our rousing speech, Burton adds other nods to the classic Sci-Fi genre, with obvious parodites of Alien, The Day the Earth Stood Still and War of the Worlds.
The film dots about a lot, and there’s not a lot of time to get to know anyone in much depth, but I don’t think thats what he was aiming for. It’s almost like a series of sketches drawn into a movie, but not in a way that feels hollow. To be honest, I’m still not sure what my final verdict on this movie is. It’s defnitely a good film, I’m just slightly unsure if it deserves the status its been elevated to. Maybe I prefer Burton in the Gothic where he fits so perfectly, and maybe that’s why Mars Attacks seems to stick out as a departure form the norm for him , but I would recommend it to any Burton or Sci-Fi fans.
Oh, and is it just me, or do the aliens really sounds like the Smash robots?