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 Tim Burton's Mars Attacks! (1996)

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Donald McKinney

Posts : 24269
Join date : 2008-07-21

PostSubject: Tim Burton's Mars Attacks! (1996)   Sun Mar 09, 2014 1:18 am

Over the course of Tim Burton's directing career, he's always been able to make good choices when it comes to selecting which films he wants to direct. Although the visual styles of his films are very similiar, with the gothic overtones and offbeat characters. However, one genre he has had more than one go at is sci-fi. He touched upon it briefly in 1994 with his biopic of Ed Wood, who is allegedly the worst filmmaker ever, and made cheesy sci-fi B-Movies. However, Burton split his fanbase with his "reimagining" of Planet of the Apes (2001), which was a victim of studio interference. Before that, back in 1996, Burton decided he wanted to make a sci-fi B-Movie, rather like the sort Roger Corman used to make back in the 1950's/60's, of all things, what he had in mind was based on a popular trading card game which originated back in 1962. Plus, it was going to have one hell of a good supporting cast to it's name, and without giving anything away here, alot of them were going to be killed off in the film!! Mars Attacks! (1996) is probabily Tim Burton's most underrated film, a cheesy sci-fi comedy which is a loving tribute to the B-Movies sci-fi films of old. 

The film follows a number of different people, and is set over the course of about a week, where there have been a number of alien sightings. US President James Dale (Jack Nicholson) is led to believe by his advisors Press Secretary Jerry Ross (Martin Short) and Professor Donald Kessler (Pierce Brosnan), that these martians could be part of an advanced life-form, and therefore, friendly. Meanwhile, over in Las Vegas property developer Art Land (Jack Nicholson again), isn't concerned about the alien sightings, but his wife Barbara Land (Annette Bening) is very interested in their arrival. Over in Perkinsville, Kansas, there's the Norris family, the father (Joe Don Baker) is proud that his son is Billy Glen (Jack Black), has volenteered for the martian welcome in the Nevada desert. The martians land, and they seemingly come in peace, but obviously their definition of peace is different to ours, and they have a nasty sense of humour, as they start zapping out large numbers of humans... 

Now, there's an unwritten film law somewhere, stating that if any film starts off with a stampede of burning cattle, it's going to be a good film. This is true with Mars Attacks! as it has lots of little moments like that, from the martians using the heads of Easter Island as bowling pins, to some of them having their photo taken in front of the Taj Mahal getting blown up. In fact, there's quite alot going on in this film, maybe too much to squeeze into the space of just over 100 mins. But, Burton keeps the pace and tone up throughout the whole film, he grew up with watching old sci-fi films on TV, and this was his love letter to those films. The design of the martians are both creepy and camp at the same time, and the film does touch upon suburbian Americana which Burton has explored in alot of his films including Edward Scissorhands (1990) and later Big Fish (2003). Alot of the design of the film is done out in garish colours, so although the film is set present day, it has the tone and look of a film from the 1960's, and then there's the all star cast. 

Jack Nicholson has alot of fun playing two parts in this film, one as the President of the US, a well-spoken, formal man, and the other as a rich property developer with a croaky, gruff voice, which makes him kinda resemble Burt Reynolds more, but it's good to see Jack play against type once in a while. But, he plays well against alot of the films supporting cast, including Glenn Close as the First Lady, Rod Steiger as General Decker, who wants to kill all the martians, Danny DeVito as Rude Gambler, who tries to bargain with the martians. There's also Sarah Jessica Parker as TV reporter Nathalie Lake, who ends up having her body switched with her dogs head, Michael J. Fox as Nathalie's boyfriend Jason Stone, who meets a sticky end, Jim Brown as Bryon Williams, one time boxer now working in Las Vegas, Natalie Portman plays Taffy Dale, the First Daughter to the president, Lukas Haas plays Richie Norris who is a family outcast who cares for his Grandma (Sylvia Sidney) who's liking of Indian Love Call by Slim Whitman proves to be quite helpful. Oh, and Tom Jones appears as himself!! Very Happy

It's a stellar cast, all brilliantly game to commit themselves to this film, as alot of them get killed off by the martians. But, it's all a bit of fun, as these are the sort of people who wouldn't want to meet sticky ends, but alot of these people wanted to work with Tim Burton, and knowing the tone of the film, didn't mind, as it's all a homage to the so-bad-they're-brilliant sci-fi films of old. Very Happy

Mars Attacks! may not be as gothic as Tim Burton's other great films, but it's great as it is. It even turns out a trillion times better than the 'other' big alien invasion film of 1996, (Independence Day), this one has a bigger cast, and unlike the 'other' film's belief that bigger is better. Whilst Mars Attacks! has a bigger cast, it's done in a more low-tech, cartoon style manner. It takes alot of stabs at popular culture, (the aliens love watching The Dukes of Hazzard Very Happy), plus it has that mysterious Martian Girl, (played by Burton's ex-girlfriend Lisa Marie), plus the voices of the martians, ("Ack-ack-ack-ACK-ACK-ACK!!"), is something you just want to mimic everytime you watch it!! Wink
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Gimli The Avenger

Posts : 26968
Join date : 2008-07-23
Location : Middle Earth

PostSubject: Re: Tim Burton's Mars Attacks! (1996)   Sun Mar 09, 2014 2:54 am

Awesome stuff, Don! And you're right about the Ack Ack Ack Ack voice!  Laughing 

We renounce our Maker.
We cleave to the darkness.
We take unto ourselves the power and glory.
Behold! We are the Nine,
The Lords of Unending Life.

Frakkin toasters!

So, what, the murder weapon was a top sirloin?

He's a klutz, Mrs. Landingham. Your president's a geek!
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