Back when Tim Burton films were still awesome and not "just ok", Mars Attacks! came out and gave us a delightful piece of 50's-style sci-fi B movie goodness complete with a stellar cast and Burton's own brand of surreal, nasty wackiness.
It's funny to think that Independence Day came out the same year as Mars Attacks! since the latter feels like a complete spoof of Roland Emmerich's disaster cheese-fest. Burton's film takes the clichéd alien invasion formula we've seen in movies like War Of The Worlds, Earth vs The Flying Saucers or The Day The Earth Stood Still and gives it a playful edge. We see our world react to a potential alien encounter stupidly and naively. Rather than fearing the Martians, we're in fact pretty darn welcoming and peaceful about the whole thing. It's a clever take on that plot because in those old movies people are usually terrified of an alien invasion and completely overreact. Here, we only acknowledge how screwed we are when we're actually obviously screwed.
See, this is what happens when you elect Jack Nicholson to be your president.
Again, I gotta mention that cast.
Literally (read: not literally) everyone in the world is there!
You've got Sarah Jessica Parker at her most cartoonish, Pierce Brosnan doing his tongue-in-cheek Bond schtick (even as a disembodied head), Danny DeVito, Jack Nicholson in dual roles, Annette Bening, Glenn Close, a young Natalie Portman, Pam Grier, Jack Black, Michael J. Fox, Martin Short, even Tom Jones is there for crying out loud! And luckily, he can fly a jet. Tom Jones doesn't f*** around. Lisa Marie also pops up in one of THE best (and funniest) cameo appearances you'll ever see in a movie: it's simply genius. This has got to be one of the best casts out there and unlike, say... Independence Day, or any Emmerich film for that matter, Burton makes the most of it and gives everyone a chance to have fun with their characters. It's actually a shame to see some of them go so quickly! Damn Martians...
Speaking of which, our invaders look pretty great. Their look being based on a series of trading cars, they still very much belong in a Tim Burton movie: they are manipulative, cruel, childish and just plain mean. Which makes them tons of fun, especially when the people they're facing are so earnest and so bloody friendly. They have no motivation except just wanting to mess with us for the hell of it. Oh sure they perform some questionable experiments here and there but essentially they're just toying with humans, we never really find out why they chose Earth instead of another planet. I guess we're closest? Whatever, they're still smarter than those water-fearing aliens from Signs.
GO TO MERCURY! IT'S DRY THERE!
Mars Attacks! goes for grotesque and trashy and achieves just that. It's also very funny and very clever making this one of the best, most creative comedies to come out of the 90's and one of Tim Burton's most entertaining outings. It would be worth watching if only for the people involved but there's much more to enjoy here so get in your saucers and fly to your nearest DVD store if you haven't yet seen it: or else!
Oh yeah, and the aliens sound like ducks LOL