Mars Attacks! (1996)

With an uncountable amount of stars in the universe, the odds are that we are probably not alone. The odds are even greater that our “neighbours” (if they exist) want nothing more than to destroy our species. This is a common depiction in popular culture and it hasn’t been depicted more hilariously than in the film Mars Attacks.

Mars Attacks manages to evoke and send up the aesthetic of 50s sci-fi.

The plot is simple enough, Martians from Mars… attack, it’s with this simple premise is where all the fun is. Alien invasion has been a topic that has been examined in another famous film of 1996, Independence Day and having such an iconic 90s take on the subject, it is nice to have a nostalgic (and comedic) look at some of the styles and conventions of yesteryear. The aliens who look like Skulls with eyeballs and bulging craniums, speak in quacks and wear underwear, a far cry from the likes of Klaatu.

The ensemble cast manages to bring a lot to their characters and work well playing off each other.

Mars Attacks draws upon an ensemble cast of figuratively thousands of recognisable faces and character roles to populate this alien invasion. A vast majority of major film stars such as Pierce Brosnan, Martin Short, Jack Black, Natalie Portman, and many others each bring a certain charm and talent to their larger than life characters. The star-studded cast (no pun intended) makes it concerning when characters left, right, and centre are mercilessly slaughtered by the Martians. Don’t get me wrong it is hilarious, especially seeing all the inventive and comical means that demise is inflicted. There’s a wealth of comedy in the other scenes as well, a smartly written script helps with that.

The destruction is universal.

You can tell from the outset that Tim Burton must have really been inspired by the Trading Card set that inspired Mars Attacks. The story feels perfect for Burton, and he manages to bring his own authentic unique worldview to the scenes around him. A strong score by long-time collaborator and former New Wave rock-star Danny Elfman make for a colourful and wonderful spectacle.

The alien’s design is both effective and hilarious.

Mars Attacks is a love letter to the great pulpy Sci-Fi of the 50s and 60s with a nice dose of 90s cynicism to freshen things up. It’s another jewel in the crown of great Tim Burton films that you’ll want to watch again and again. It’s a film that shows the funny side of our planet’s annihilation and makes you disappointed that in real life our potential annexation won’t be as hysterical.

Tom Jones is also in fine comedic form in this film.

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