Mars Attacks! (1996)

DVD Cover (Warner Brother)
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Overall Rating 64%
Overall Rating
Ranked #852
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It is a normal day for everyone, until President of the United States James Dale announces Martians have been spotted circling Earth. The Martians land and a meeting is arranged, but not everything goes to plan, and the Martians seem to have other plans for Earth. Are they just misunderstood beings or do they really want to destroy all of humanity? --IMDb
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Review by Crispy
Added: October 13, 2007
I remember seeing this for the first time about ten years ago. I was eleven then and thought this was one of the greatest movies ever. A decade later, I admit I still have a fond place in my heart for "kiddie movies" but surely this one isn't going to weigh in nearly so high. Well, I definitely wouldn't place it anywhere near "greatest movie ever" but I still found it to be nothing short of great.

The plot here is simultaneously as straightforward as you can possibly get and decently complex. U.S. President James Dale is looking through a series of pictures of the fleet of Martian flying saucers surrounding the planet. His advisor's suggestions range everywhere from gearing up for war to realizing that they are an advanced race and therefore peaceful. The latter is the decision they come to and the Martians are greeted with open arms in the Nevada desert. With the whole world watching the aliens reveal themselves and announce they come in peace. In a state of exhilaration, one of the attendees releases a dove which terrifies the Martian ambassador and the bird quickly finds itself fried. They now turn their ray guns on the crowd and obliterate the Welcoming Committee in no time. The president's party realizes they must have mistaken the dove for a sign of war and send the Martians a message explaining the confusion. They reply expressing their deepest apologies and wish to again attempt a peaceful meeting, this time by speaking to Congress. The assembly is arranged and the ambassador takes the podium, says a few words and promptly initiates the attack. In no time, they have destroyed the legislative branch. Now fully aware the claims of peace were just a ruse to get their guard down, the world gets ready to defend itself against the invaders. Throughout all of this, we're following about three or four different group of people. The president and his family, snobby First Lady Marsha and their considerably more laid back daughter, Taffy, are among these of course. Also, we're following Byron Williams, an ex-heavyweight champion of the world whose time has come and gone. He now makes his living at an Egyptian themed casino in Las Vegas, dressed up as King Tut and using his former days of glory for publicity. He's trying to work out his relationship with his wife and kids. In his absence, she's lost control of the two boys who routinely skip school to hang out at the local arcade. Also in Las Vegas, an entrepreneur who's oblivious to his spiritual wife's depression. And finally, we've got the trailer trash family from the desert, who've given all the love to the oldest son in the army and fully neglect his less ambitious brother. So many different viewpoints and flickering bits of realism give a nice foil to the comic book violence of what is predominately a comedy.

Mars Attacks! is based on a trading card series in the '50s and director Tim Burton has managed to capture the feel of that perfectly. The movie is known as having the feel of a B movie with the budget of a blockbuster and that is definitely an accurate statement. The Martians need no motive, they just remain perfectly content using their absurdly gaudy ray guns to cause mass destruction. Plus, once they get going, their bigger antics are truly hilarious in that only-in-a-comic-book way. Things like using the Easter Island statues as bowling pins, then cheering and slapping each other congratulatory high fives for the strike. And even though they're CGI, it's obvious they're having a blast throughout it all. Speaking of, this is one of the few times that CGI creatures actually look halfway decent. Although to be honest, a big part of it is that it just fit extremely well with the cartoonish tone of the rest of the movie, but the aliens and flying saucers still looked leagues better than say Reptile from Mortal Kombat or even the licker from Resident Evil, which came out about six years later.

Jack Nicholson. Glenn Close. Danny Devito. Martin Short. Michael J. Fox. Pierce Brosnan. Jim Brown. Natalie Portman. Can they really put that many big name actors in one stupid movie about a Martian invasion? They can and they did. Obviously they all shine here. Nicholson truly steals the show though, dualing as both President Dale and the crooked entrepreneur mentioned up above. Coming in a close second is Danny Devito who only got about ten minutes of screen time as a gambler at Bryon's casino. His reputation is no secret to anyone, so I'm sure its no surprise he could do so much with so little. I could go throughout the casting singing everyone's praises but really, with a list like that it's basically a given.

At the end of the day, I found Mars Attacks! every bit as entertaining now as I did when I was a kid. I've never looked at the cards its based on, but I've read that it nailed the tone of the cards perfectly. What else do you expect from Tim Burton? Anyone else remembering liking this one as a kid, give it another shot. I'm sure you're feelings won't change at all. This movie was absolutely nothing but fun from the opening scenes to the closing credits. 9/10
Ginose #1: Ginose - added October 13, 2007 at 2:49pm
This film scared the hell outta me when I first saw it. Keep in mind, at that age, I wasn't fond of this type of dark comedy. It was the design of the aliens along with the concept of how easily they conquered our planet that frightened me. Since then I don't think I've revisited this film, but, God knows, it's about time I did. I hope it's as enjoyable as you say, because I, personally, am not a fan of Tim Burton. After that mockery he made of "Planet of the Apes" I don't know if I'll ever forgive him. But, we shall see.
Let's hope he does good with "Sweeny Todd" or I will be SUPER pissed.
Tristan #2: Tristan - added October 13, 2007 at 3:01pm
It really is a fantastic movie. And yeah, it scared the shit out of me too when I was younger. I was nine, I didn't know what kind of movie it was. I watch it on a regular basis now, and I certainly enjoy it, now that I can appreciate it. 8.5/10
bluemeanie #3: bluemeanie - added October 13, 2007 at 4:22pm
Fun as hell. Great cast and great execution. I loved it. 9/10.
effin #4: effin - added October 23, 2007 at 9:15pm
I loved it as a kid, i still love it, Jack is the king, and Tim Burton is all dark and twisty in the way only a boy like me could love.
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