Based om the card game of the same name, Mars Attacks (1996) is director Tim Burton's tribute to the 1950's sci-fi B-Movie Genre. A race of Martians with a twisted sense of humour invades the Earth. A naive human race believes the Martians to be peaceful, the Martians find this hilarious.
Although Mars Attacks has a modern day seting (1996) it takes on the aesthetics of a 50's movie. The costumes, sets, music, sound effects and characters are all designed to give a 50's feel. Tim Burton is obviously a massive fan of the films of this era. The film is abundant with references and nods to other movies. One of the most blatant examples is the design of the Martian flying saucers; they are lifted almost directly from Earth vs. the Flying Saucers (1956).
Fig 1: Flying Saucers Above the White House (Earth vs. the Flying Saucers 1956)
Fig 2: Martians Approaching Earth (Mars Attacks 1996)
The film is a comedy but the jokes are hit and miss, “the picture is lacking in the uproarious humour that might well have ensued from the material, which instead inspires occasional laughs but, much more often, bemused fascination and wonderment at the bizarre imaginations and impressive skill of the filmmakers” (Todd McCarthy 2008). Most of the successful gags derive from the mean spirited and sadistic nature of the Martian's. This type of comedy is reminiscent of creature features such as Gremlins (1984). The film is also relatively poorly paced; this is especially notable in the overlong build up to the Martian arrival “Up to that point, Mars Attacks, has been spinning its wheels while it introduces its earthbound cast” (Janet Maslin 2003).
Fig 3: Martians
Despite its flaws Mars Attacks remains a fun and imaginative film.
Janet Maslin, New York Times, May 20th 2003, Available at: http://movies.nytimes.com/movie/review?res=9F04EEDA173EF930A25751C1A960958260&partner=Rotten Tomatoes
Todd McCarthy, Variety, August 25th 2008, Available at: http://www.variety.com/review/VE1117436916?refcatid=31
Fig 1, Flying Saucers above the White House, Available at: http://www.chicagoreader.com/Bleader/archives/2007/01/09/klaatu-barada-nikto
Fig 2, Martians Approaching Earth, Available at: http://www.alicia-logic.com/capspages/caps_viewall.asp?titleid=28
Fig 3, Martians, Available at: http://starstorecom.blogspot.com/2009/04/mars-attacks-tim-burtons-flawed-pulp.html