No other entry in Tim Burton’s darkly quirky filmography has ever been as divisive as Mars Attacks!, his homage to the gleefully bad B-flicks of the 1960s that Mystery Science Theater 3000 would regularly riff on later. Some critics, including Roger Ebert, criticized it for just being a goofy, laughably over-the-top piece of schlocky sci-fi action that didn’t try to do anything really clever or subversive with its source material. Others, however, loved it for many of the same reasons. Yes, I happen to fall into the latter camp. Sue me.
You want a serious plot summary for this film? OK, here’s my best attempt at one: a bunch of comically grotesque Martians (whose body movements remind me of the characters from the early Oddworldgames) show up at Earth, and although their repeated yelling of what apparently sounds like “Ack ack ack ack ack!” initially translates into “We come in peace”, they soon start using their laser guns to blast everybody with, as the book Rotten Movies We Love puts it, “the gleeful maleviolence of an overstimulated thirteen-year-old playing Grand Theft Auto”. However, the people soon learn how to fight back against these hilariously evil creatures–and they’ve got a really unusual way of doing so, too. After all, they’ve still got two out of three branches of Congress working for them, and that ain’t bad!
Obviously,Mars Attacks!isn’t meant to be taken seriously at all, and critics being tired of such profoundly silly fare admittedly is understandable, especially since the film had the extremely big misfortune of being released only a few months after the extremely bigsmash hit Independence Day. But hey, profoundly silly fare is what I signed up for here, andMarsundoubtedlydelivers on that front, especially considering the massive amount of A-lister talent on screen here. Seriously, just how did they getJack Nicholson, Glenn Close, Pierce Brosnan, Danny Devito, Martin Short, and (a very young) Jack Black all together in the same film? It’s really crazy when you think about it.
Speaking of crazy, there’s lots of fittingly insane mayhem and–surprisingly enough for a PG-13-rated movie–gore (how a shot of a hand getting severed and subsequently getting carried away by a dog, or another one of a finger suffering the same fate and coming to a rest at the bottom of a fish tank, slipped by the MPAA’s watch will always be beyond me) to go around here, but with it comes enough madcaphumor, subtle satire, andhilariously quotable dialogue to make Mars Attacks! a very worthwhile experience for those who just want to accept it for what it is. For those who don’t: too bad. You’re really missing out.