Eye For Film >> Movies >> Mars Attacks! (1996) Film Review
Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode
The Pirates Of The Caribbean films were based on a ride. The Tower is now in pre-production, based on what is little more than an exhibit. So it seems reasonable that Tim Burton should have based his Martian invasion epic on a set of trading cards - and it has to be said, he brings their classic illustrations to life superbly. Right from the opening credits, when a host of tiny silver saucers mass around the Earth, we know we're in for a B-movie treat. The little green men who later emerge are the perfect distilled image of the hostile - and mischievous - alien, even if they do protest "Do not run. We are your friends." This should have been an unforgettable film - so what went wrong?
Rarely has the title of a film summed it up so well - or so completely. The trouble is that, once his Martians have commenced their attack, scriptwriter Jonathan Gems has no idea what to do with them. In lieu of a plot he simply has a lot of different characters running around in mini-disaster movie scenarios, some of which are entertaining, some just dull.
But these characters are played by some tremendous actors. Jack Nicholson is excellent as both a sleazy casino owner and a stubborn president; Glenn Close makes a formidable first lady; everybody loves the gory fate of Michael J Fox, and casting Tom Jones (as himself) was a stroke of genius. You can also see a 15-year-old Natalie Portman inadvertently finding herself in charge of the government.
Given its flimsy premise, this film comes off not too badly. There are the usual sumptuous Burton visuals and it's interesting to see what he can do with lush colour. There's also the playful and innovative design work you'd expect, which is great when it comes to Martian gadgets. Many scenes are great fun to watch, even if they are ultimately let down by poor pacing and a cop-out ending.
Mars attacks, it weaves past the defenders, it shoots, it scores, but it's offside - the cheers are short-lived. This bold attempt is not what it should have been.Reviewed on: 07 Mar 2009