Blu-ray | DVD
Directed by Tim Burton
Starring Jack Nicholson, Sarah Jessica Parker, Natalie Portman, Jack Black, Pierce Brosnan, Annette Bening, Glenn Close
Warner Bros. Home Entertainment
Release Date September 7, 2010
If anything can be learned from Tim Burton‘s Mars Attacks!, I believe it is this: Any movie that is based off a card game is not headed to anywhere good.
You can pretty much gather the plotline of the movie just by reading the title, but just for sake of the review, let’s go through the basics. When UFOs are discovered flying toward planet Earth, The President and Washington’s top scientists debate on what their next course of action should be. Believing that the visitors are a friendly bunch, the President sends our military to greet them as they land. With the whole world watching, aliens show their true colors and they don’t appear to be in the mood to give hugs. Now, as Mars attacks, it will take an unlikely hero to step up and defend the Earth from being destroyed.
While watching this B movie, I noticed two things right away. For one thing, the special effects are pretty decent. All the aliens, spaceships, ray gun beams, and alien goop all looked realistic and on par with the effects we see in movies now (a huge feat for a movie that is 14 years old). Even with the sharpness of the Blu-ray version, the effects do not seem to falter.
Another thing is just how many stars are in this one film. Stars from the past (Jack Nicholson, Michael J. Fox, Jim Brown) and present (Sarah Jessica Parker, Pierce Brosnan, Christina Applegate) all show up in one form or another to play in Tim Burton’s movie sandbox. Even Natalie Portman and Jack Black show up in small roles. It is such a shame that even with this much talent on the roster, Mars doesn’t ever reach its full potential.
I think a lot of that has to do with the script itself. Penned by Jonathan Gems, the movie is supposed to be a satirical take on the B-movie space invader movies genre. However, in combining the two elements, the fun quotient gets canceled out of the equation. At times the movie just feels very soulless. Even when the body count was rising, I felt that naughty sense of glee of watching various folks bite the big one. I never cared too much about what was happening to most of them.
Despite the all star cast, none of the characters are remotely engaging. With the exception of Nicholson, who plays two characters in the film and chews up the scenery in both, all the actors seemed to be putting as little effort into their roles as possible. It is hard to blame them though, since they have so little to work with. The only bright spot is Bryon, played by Brown, a former boxer trying to get back home to protect his ex-wife and kids. Watching him box aliens was pretty amusing, not to mention seeing Tom Jones, in a cameo appearance, perform his hit song “It’s Not Unusual.”
Tim Burton’s Mars Attacks! is certainly not Burton’s best work. I think had he had a larger role in writing this picture, some of his dark humor would have rubbed off nicely on this picture. So while the direction of the film and the overall look is a step above other B movies, the below average script prevents the film from being a true B-movie classic.