Review: Mars Attacks! (1996)


I have no doubt that any aliens that are out there would look upon humanity and wonder how we as a collective could be so idiotic!

Screenplay By: Jonathan Gems
Directed By: Tim Burton

Tim Burton is a man full of imagination, sometimes that imagination is a great thing to behold while other times it leaves the viewer bewildered as to the point of it all. Mars Attacks! is a film full of imagination, it is a satire with lots of characters, too many in fact, and it is at its best when it delivers fast jokes and showcases its impressive CGI. Mars Attacks! is at its worst when it tries for long played out jokes or when it focuses on the human characters for too long. This is a film that is a bit all over the place as well as uneven and that definitely comes across when trying to take the film in.

Mars Attacks! is inspired from an old Topps trading card game, but its roots are also clearly from the 1950’s science fiction B movie. The main problem with Mars Attacks! is that it doesn’t hold true to those roots, it is neither excellent or terrible, it’s just mediocre. Mars Attacks! has all the ingredients for either a tremendous picture or a terribly awesome one, but the ingredients never come together to give the viewer either. A large part of this is the mammoth cast, a cast so large that none of the characters matter either dramatically or even in a comedy sense. It may not even be the size of the cast that is the problem, but that the movie spends so much time with its human actors and yet never does anything with them.

The clear draw of Mars Attacks! is the humor that is funny, the CGI and the quirkiness of it all. While Mars Attacks! doesn’t succeed as a great comedy, it does feature some scenarios that do provide laughter and some off-key moments that are genuinely funny. The CGI is excellent throughout, whether it is an alien ship, the destruction of the Eiffel Tower, a person disintegrating, or an aliens head imploding. The renders look marvelous in a highly surreal way, and the surrealism of Mars Attacks! is one of its biggest strengths. The entire concept of Mars Attacks! lends itself to the weird and out there, and it is fun to see what zany happening will occur next.

Mars Attacks! has its fans, and even some people who love it as a satire on American assimilation. While I can definitely see that aspect of the film, I think it takes a back seat to the overall surreal nature of the story and the visuals. I did enjoy Mars Attacks! for the most part, I just wish I could have liked more about it or laughed at more of the jokes. Mars Attacks! isn’t a terrible movie, but it isn’t a great movie, it’s a movie somewhere in-between decent and good. I’d say it is worth a look just for the CGI and the surreal nature that envelops the entire production, but don’t go out of your way to see it anytime soon.




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