Mars Attacks! (1996)

mars attacks poster 1996 movie
8.5 Overall Score
Story: 9/10
Acting: 8/10
Visuals: 8/10

Fun homage to 1950s sci-fi

Won't hit everyone

Movie Info

Movie Name: Mars Attacks!

Studio: Tim Burton Productions

Genre(s):  Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Comedy

Release Date(s):  December 12, 1997 (Premiere)/December 13, 1996 (US)

MPAA Rating: PG-13

mars attacks head alien martian

Maybe they’re just misunderstood…

Martians have come to Earth, and the Earth must decide…are they friends or enemies?  When the Martians prove to be not on good terms with humans, humanity finds itself in an all-out war to save the planet…the Martians have numbers and technology on their side, but humanity has a boxer (Jim Brown), a lounge singer (Tom Jones), a hippie (Annette Bening), a donut shop worker (Lukas Haas), and more on its side…will humans live when Mars attacks!?!?

Directed by Tim Burton, Mars Attacks! is a comic B-Movie homage adventure.  Following Burton’s Ed Wood in 1994, the film was based on the 1962 card series by Topps, and the ensemble cast film was released to mixed reviews.

Mars Attacks! came out at the top of my Tim Burton love.  While some were mixed about Mars Attacks!, I wasn’t.  The movie does what it intends and in my opinion does it smartly.

mars attacks lisa marie alien

An illegal alien in the White House…someone would be upset

Mars Attacks! is a parody of 1950s movies.  The alien invasion storyline was done over and over again.  It generally involved a sort of B-Movie actor saving the entire world through means that they come upon by chance.  Mars Attacks! relishes in this idea and the idea of stereotypical “cut-out” characters.  You have the war monger who just wants to use nuclear weapons, the scientist that thinks everything is a big misunderstanding, and a lot of random characters that somehow come to the forefront of an alien invasion.  You contrast this with something like Independence Day also in 1996, and they are kind of the same movie…but you are supposed to take Independence Day seriously.

The cast is great.  None of the characters are particularly developed, but that is also kind of the point.  Jack Nicholson gets to play multiple roles with Glen Close as his wife.  Annette Bening, Danny DeVito, Martin Short, Sarah Jessica Parker, Pierce Brosnan, Rod Steiger, Michael J. Fox, Tom Jones (as Tom Jones), Lukas Haas, Christina Applegate, Joe Don Baker, Jack Black, Pam Grier, Paul Winfield, Jim Brown, Natalie Portman, and Frank Welker as the “yah-yah” voice of the aliens.  You could argue that Lisa Marie is the scene-stealer in the movie as the alien “woman” who makes her way into the White House as an assassin.

mars attacks jim brown vs martians boxing

If Jim Brown can’t stop the aliens, who can?

The movie also gets the visuals.  While the film might have actually been more accurate in black-and-white for the stylization, the color is hyper colored with great alien designs.  This was necessary for the film which went big (and needed to).  Even with the big look, it still has that 1950s retro style that matches the cards and ideas.

Mars Attacks! is a lot of fun if you get Mars Attacks!  To get the movie, you have to have seen a lot of ’40s, ’50s, and even ’60s sci-fi to get a lot of the fun nuances of the film.  Burton was the right choice to direct this (at the time) and his vision captures the imagery of the cards and what fans liked about them.  Mars Attacks! might not be for everyone, but I enjoy this Martian invasion.  Burton followed Mars Attacks! with Sleepy Hollow in 1999.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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