This is one of those films with a huge ensemble cast of A list talent, many of whom I’m a fan of, so I had high hopes going in. Not only is the cast full of great actors but the director is none other than Tim Burton, whose directed some of my favorite films such as Sleepy Hollow, Batman Returns, and Beetlejuice. Well I’m sad to say that I hated this film! Mars Attacks! is one of the biggest wastes of talent I’ve ever seen.
This film is of course a spoof on alien invasion films, that’s clear just from the poster. When you do spoofs, there must be a lot of good hard hitting laughs, one right after the other. If there isn’t an abundance of laughs then the film will be pointless. There are several problems with this film but that is the biggest, most glaring problem; the comedy just isn’t funny. It comes off as very bland and repetitive and the script never really offers up anything unique. You’d think a spoof film about an alien invasion would have a good many laughs but I only chuckled twice. The main running gag here is that America’s leadership is so unbelievably stupid that it’s easy as cake for the Martians to attack and kill. Making the President and other world leaders bumbling idiots is a good idea for this kind of film but the laughs just aren’t there. There needed to be well written witty comedy and that was simply missing from the script. Stupid spoof-ish things for sure happen but there’s a complete lack of any wit, instead they go for low bar comedy. It’s very unfortunate that the script goes for the lazy uninspired type of humor because with this cast something truly great could’ve come about.
The script also seems scatter brained. There’s way too much going on and way too many characters to follow and we jump from here to there so quickly that nothing has much of an opportunity to land. This cast is just way too good to be in this thing and none of them get a chance to shine because there’s so many of them! Maybe this film could’ve had some potential to be better if the screen time wasn’t being divided up among so many different characters. There’s really only one character I liked and that was Annette Bening’s role, she did a really good job and was a natural fit to play such a hippie dippie type of character. But unfortunately even she doesn’t get any funny lines.
It seemed like a great idea to have Jack Nicholson and Glenn Close play this dim witted President and First Lady but again the script has no good material for them and try as they do, they aren’t able to overcome it. There are several cast members that are just COMPLETELY wasted. They get virtually no screen time and their characters serve no purpose at all. Pam Grier, Michael J. Fox, Danny DeVito, and Jack Black all go to complete and utter waste which is sad to see.
To be honest, there’s only few things in this film I liked. One is the special effects and visuals. The special effects are actually really well done, especially for 1996. When the invasions begin, the destruction and explosions all look great and you can tell the effects team spent a good bit of time on them. I think the effects people might be the only ones who actually did their jobs. Well to be fair, a lot of the actors aren’t at fault, the script just doesn’t give them anything to work with.
The other thing that’s nice to see is Sarah Jessica Parker and Pierce Brosnan’s scenes together. Their characters, just like every other character, aren’t given any funny lines, but they have a nice cheeky chemistry that’s somewhat amusing to watch. And just like the cartoon says…That’s all folks! I can’t come up with anything else about Mars Attacks! that’s positive. Unfortunately this film just doesn’t know how to do good spoof comedy. The screenwriters seriously needed to take another look at this one.
Mars Attacks! is just a poorly written film, plain and simple. None of the actors get to shine because the script doesn’t give them any material AND none of them get a lot of screen time due to the number of characters crammed in this thing. The only thing this film gets right is the special effects.