Slavoj Žižek, a critical theorist known to some as the Elvis Presley of Philosophy, has spoken extensively on cultural and societal themes as shown through the products of cinema. In his Living in the End Times, a treatise on the downfalls of capitalism, he discusses how we have reached an age where capitalism might crumble under its own weight. On October 9th, he claimed the end of the world is more conceivable than the end of the politico-economic system that we live in during a speech given to Occupy Wall Street at Liberty Plaza. Hence, the slew of alien invasion, natural disaster, and zombie outbreak films we’ve seen in the last 20 years. Slavoj is known for addressing this phenomenon (as well as others) with a satirist’s biting wit.
He’s not the only one who uses comedy to illustrate this in action – notably, Tim Burton’s 1996 MARS ATTACKS!, uses both the comedic and horrific to great effect. Coming out shortly after INDEPENDENCE DAY, the film takes a lighter approach to the fear of alien invasion without sacrificing any of the gruesome. The aliens of MARS ATTACKS! are as cruel as their appearances (see below) are sinister. They use a variety of ingenious torture machines, disintegrate people left and right, pretend at making peace, and famously run around the streets exterminating all life around them while holding translators that bellow out, “Don’t run! We are your friends.”
But it’s not just special effects, gags, and references to science fiction B movie glory that make this film the gem it is. MARS ATTACKS! features a collective cast that is so star-studded the film could almost be read as a Brechtian breaking of the fourth wall (a la the use of actors like Steve Buscemi in the film adaptation of THE LARAMIE PROJECT). We’ve got Jack Nicholson as conflicted president of the United States, Pierce Brosnan as a political aide turned disembodied head, Sarah Jessica Parker as a reporter whose head is reattached to the body of a Chihuahua, Jack Black as a soldier who gets disintegrated early in the film, Danny DeVito… you know what, there’s frankly too many people to list. Needless to say, this list of Hollywood big names bring their full character acting chops to the film – sure it’s a silly script, with no real time for character development, but it works, it really works.
Whether you’ve seen it or not, this is a cinematic landmark that demands viewership and you’re in luck. Tonight, the film will be screening outdoors for free at Bloc 11, a coffee shop extraordinaire in Union Square, as part of a series of sci-fi films we love.
MARS ATTACKS! (1996) DIR. TIM BURTON
6/16 – 8:30PM
FREE, $3 Popcorn w/ real melted butter, Full Menu until 9PM
Bloc 11 Café
11 Bow Street
Somerville, MA 02143