Exploitation Retrospect | The Journal of Junk Culture and Fringe Media
Mars Attacks! (1996)
Warner Bros. Video | Review by Dan Taylor

1996 brought both the laughable INDEPENDENCE DAY and this laugh-out-loud sci-fi spoof. Inexplicably, while MARS ATTACKS! languished at the box office during the Christmas holidays, ID4 blew away box office records and established Will Smith as a bankable star. Where's the justice?

Based on the classic Topps trading cards, MA! harkens back to the aliens of yesteryear. No Giger-esque, drooling, tentacled creatures for Jack Nicholson and Tom Jones to fight. Instead, these short, bug-eyed, throbbing-brained little green men bark out their strange language and fry every human in sight. Even while their translator preaches peace and harmony. I can't be the only one who thinks this is funny!

Maybe director Tim Burton bit off more than he could chew with this satire. Remember, it'd only been a few months since ID4 ended its box office run. Perhaps viewers didn't want to be mocked so exceedingly after dumping dollar after dollar into that film's coffers. Intentional or not, MARS ATTACKS! lands pointed jabs at the silly alliances, outrageous coincidences, and insulting plot contrivances of the more popular alien invasion flick.

Burton's dark, often-menacing sense of humor has worked effectively in films like BEETLEJUICE, EDWARD SCISSORHANDS, BATMAN RETURNS, and ED WOOD. Here, the results are more hit-or-miss, perhaps due to the IT'S A MAD, MAD...WORLD-sized cast that populates the epic. I might've been pissed had I shelled out $7, but for the price of a $3 rental it's a fun way to blow an evening.


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