Classic Film Review: Mars Attacks (1996)

Mars Attacks, 1996

Directed by: Tim Burton

Starring: Jack Nicholson, Glenn Close, Annette Bening, Pierce Brosnan, Danny DeVito, Martin Short, Sarah Jessica Parker, Michael J. Fox, Rod Steiger, Tom Jones, Lukas Haas, Natalie Portman, Jim Brown, Lisa Marie, Sylvia Sidney, Jack Black


Mars Attacks is a science-fiction comedy film about an army of Martians who land on earth, before beginning to attack it by killing anyone and everyone in their way. This film features Pierce Brosnan (who sandwiched this film between being James Bond in ‘95’s GoldenEye and ‘97’s Tomorrow Never Dies) as nothing more than a head (after being experimented on) flirting with Sarah Jessica Parker, who herself has been experimented on to the point where she’s a dog with a human head: That’s the type of humour this film aims for. And while it may have been a commercial bomb I personally love this film.

From start to finish it never takes itself seriously at all, despite the cast it somehow managed to ensemble, and this helps with the tone. Its humour is silly (the lights go out on a Tom Jones performance and when they return on his backing singers are replaced with Martians) and its plot is pretty laughable (their way of combating the aliens in the end is ridiculous), but there’s still something hilarious about the Martians landing with a ‘We come in peace’ message for planet earth before obliterating the welcoming party (a trick they repeat later by offering an apology). One scene even sees a Martian dressing up as a human prostitute, before being taken into the White House by Press Secretary Jerry Ross (Martin Short), and while that itself is laughable, the disguise with which the Martian uses is completely preposterous (with incredibly pointy breasts). The Martians also replace the Presidents on Mount Rushmore with Martian heads, they play bowling with the Easter Island statues and they shrink General Casey (Paul Winfield) before standing on him. Everything is farcical and silly and stupid but it’s brilliant.

Some of the special effects are terrible, and there are some terrible green screen moments, but this film wasn’t even intended to be the blockbuster that Independence Day (released in the same year) was. An amazing cast of actors came together to have a bit of fun with a parody of sci-fi B movies, and the result is a hilariously silly film.


Plot: * * * *

Acting: * * *

Writing: * * *

Presentation: * *

Overall Rating: * * *

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