MARS ATTACKS! (1996) 

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Jack Nicholson
Glenn Close
Pierce Brosnan
Annette Bening
Danny Devito
Martin Short
Sarah Jessica Parker
Michael J. Fox
Natalie Portman
Lucas Haas

Tim Burton



Time: 103 mins.
Rating: PG-13
Genre: Action/Comedy

Burton brings his intensely unique visual style to this off-beat campy, sci-fi, horror flick about a Martian invasion. This darkly funny tale has the cast of the century, yet never quite comes together into a cohesive story. Perhaps the scope of the comic books is just too great to include into a 2-hour movie. It's clear from the number of plot lines and characters that Burton was loath to leave anything out. Hence the erratic feeling to the proceedings. The cast is superb and they play their parts with gusto and a great sense of humor. Nicholson and Close are hysterical as the vapid President and First Lady who find themselves in a crisis they can't begin to comprehend, never mind actually solve.

Though there's a lot going on – mainly because there's so many characters to check in with – nothing really happens for the first 45 minutes. It's all a set-up to the aliens attacking. The shear volume of actors makes it almost impossible to keep them all straight, nor do you really care who they are. Granted they were taken from a comic book, but did they have to be so one-dimensional? A little depth would have gone a long way. By the time the aliens landed and started blasting up the place, my patience was worn thin. Frankly, not only did the aliens provide comic relief, they also thinned the crowd of actors scrambling for screen time.

Once the attack gets under way, the tone and pace of the film changes dramatically. The main difference is that it actually starts to be funny. The experiments the aliens perform on Sarah Jessica Parker and Pierce Brosnan are disconcerting, twisted and hysterical. He cleverly turns two extremely attractive actors – one who plays James Bond no less – into complete and total freaks. This is Burton's sense of humor at its' best and it should have played a bigger role in this enterprise. He clearly wanted to faithful to the original piece, but at what expense?

The alien effects, from the way they talk and move to the way they explode, are just fantastic as well as damn funny. You can't help but crack up while trying to imitate the way they sound. He also makes them wickedly funny, by having them spout peace messages while blowing things up. They are truly the stars of this film and more time should have been devoted to them then the human actors. They certainly had the more interesting roles. The actors try their best, they're just upstaged by the special effects. Not necessarily a bad thing, just tough to watch for 2 hours. I'm not looking for a deep message, just some reason for spending the time. Great production design and kick ass effects are not enough. At least for me.

If you must see everything Burton does, rent this movie – but only watch the last hour of it. That's definitely where all the action and humor is and believe me the story is so simple you won't miss anything. The rest is just painful, uninspired and annoying. The Penguin scenes in BATMAN RETURNS were more enjoyable and that's saying something.

"I want the people to know that they still have 2 out of 3 branches of the government working for them, and that ain't bad."

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