I remember seeing Tim Burton’s satirical take on little green men when it first came out in 1996. Mars Attacks!, while humorous, also scared me with its skeletal, exposed-brained, ray-gun-wielding Martians. In giving Mars Attacks! another viewing years later, this film holds up well in its humor, and while I’m not as likely to have nightmares this time around, I would still run in the opposite direction if I crossed paths with one of the Martians.
Set between Washington, D.C., Las Vegas, Kansas, and New York City, each location builds a unique group of characters. This star-studded cast is found divided when the Earth is surrounded by kitschy silver flying saucers—Danny Elfman’s musical score reinforces the sci-fi elements of the film. The appearance of the UFOs poses the question: are the Martians hostile, or do they come in peace? President James Dale (Jack Nicholson) is stuck between the beliefs of Professor Donald Kessler (Pierce Brosnan) and General Decker (Rod Steiger). Kessler, fascinated by the proof of intelligent life on Mars, hypothesizes they come in peace, while Decker holds firm the Martians must be nuked immediately.
President Dale opts to hope for peace, yet from the title of the film you can likely guess the Martians are not on the same page. An initial meeting in the Nevada dessert leads to ray guns galore, eviscerating members of the U.S. military and curious onlookers. This experience alone does not have everyone convinced the Martians are ill-intentioned (seriously?), and instead think it could’ve been a misunderstanding. Yet alas, the Earthlings have no such luck as the Martians only continue to destroy mankind —along with any birds they come across.
The promise for the Earthlings to make it through looks grim as the government continuously fall short, including the President’s horny Press Secretary, Jerry Ross (Martin Short), easily being seduced by a woman who is so clearly one of the Martians her purse is even shaped like a ray gun. If you are intrigued to learn whether the Earthlings pull off a win in the end, you’ll have to give this oddball ’90s classic a view yourself and can do so accompanied by a burlesque pre-show from lovers of all things macabre, The Slaughterhouse Society!
dir. Tim Burton
Screens Friday, 3/11 @ Somerville Theatre
35mm. Burlesque preshow by Slaughterhouse Movie Club