Mars Attacks! (review by Doug Smith)

Well, after not writing anything for about six months, I’m back with a brand new review. And it’s even something fairly recent! “Mars Attacks!” is probably one of my favorite movies of all time. People say that it was cheesy and stupid, but they don’t realize that that’s exactly what Tim Burton intended. He wanted to recreate the cheesiness of the fifties alien invasion films and he did an excellent job. Nevertheless, though, my job is to rip movies apart and I intend to do just that to this one.
“Mars Attacks!” is based on a Topps trading card series created in 1962 and was only on the market for a few months before they were pulled off because of people thinking they were “too violent.” The movie has quite a star-studded cast. Jack Nicholson plays two roles, the first being President (of the USA) Dale and the second being Art Land, an entrepreneur in Vegas. Considering it was a dual-role, Nicholson probably demanded dual-salaries and dual-bottles of vodka. Glenn Close plays Marsha Dale, wife of the hapless president. These two remind me so much of Ronnie and Nancy it’s scary. Pierce Brosnan is shaken but not stirred as Professor Donald Kessler. Annette Bening plays Barbara Land, who makes me realize why all flower children need to die. Finally, former NFL player, Jim Brown plays Byron Williams, former boxer. With a name like Byron, you know he’s got to be one mean dude. And, one can’t forget, Tom Jones! There are quite a few others, including Lukas Haas, Rod Steiger, Natalie Portman, Martin Short, Danny DeVito, Sarah Jessica Parker, Michael J. Fox, Pam Grier and the ever-popular, ever-greasy, ever-drunk, ever-flatulating Joe Don Baker.
The movie begins with the Chile’s Baby Back Ribs special getting a little out of hand, with a herd of flaming cattle running past a couple of farmers. As they stand there in slack-jawed awe, a UFO then rises above them and heads for space. This is, of course, where the obligatory Danny Elfman music begins. A Tim Burton movie with music by Danny Elfman, you say? Go on!
After the credits fly by, we go to the oval office where President Dale and his cabinet members have just found out that a flock of alien vehicles are hovering a little ways away from Earth. The scary part is President Dale and his cabinet sound more intelligent than the current president and his posse. They eventually decide they should welcome the alien visitors with open arms instead of blowing them away. The reason? Quite simple. It would look better to the voters and sound better in the history books. Ahh, politicians.
Next we go to the glitz and glamour of Las Vegas, where some nuns are getting funky in a casino with Byron Williams. Just before Sister Patricia can cop a feel, Byron gets a telephone call from his ex-wife, whom he’s trying to patch things up with. She says something about their kids not being home in two nights, but we suddenly have to forget about that story line when a new one is introduced with Art and Barb Land. And then something happens with them that we’re supposed to pay attention to, but within about five seconds a whole new subplot is introduced with a news reporter and a ditzy fashion show host with an annoying pet rat-dog. But before we can catch on to that one, the president interrupts the television networks with the announcement that intelligent life has been found on Mars and it’s headed to Earth.
This is about the time when what seems to be nearly twenty subplots start flying around and none of them are really entirely important. There’s something going on with rednecks in Kansas, the president’s daughter, an old woman looking for her Muffy, tattered relationships, disobedient kids, teen angst and a horny press secretary. The fact is nothing important happens until the Martin ambassador interrupts television and makes the International Sign of the Donut.
Then we have a little drought again until the Martians land in Pahrump, Nevada and start blowing stuff up. None of the other storylines really ever intercept each other, but, hey, who cares, Tom Jones shows up eventually! That makes it worth the wait.
As I said earlier, this is one of my favorite movies and Tim Burton is probably my absolute favorite director of all time. There are a few plot holes and stuff, so it’s not perfect, but it’s a great satire on today’s society. Favorite scene: Martian’s using the translator device, running after humans saying, “Don’t run! We are your friends!” I give this one four yaks.