Monday, 29 November 2010

Film: Mars Attacks!, 1996, Tim Burton

Last week, and part of week 10 of our narrative project, we watched quite different film, despite belonging to the same Sci-fi genre, it did not belong to the B-movies Golden Era, the 50's. the film of choice was Mars Attacks! a 1996 Sci-fi/ Action/ Comedy directed by Tim Burton and based on a 1950's trading card game.Although not being a b-movie, it is considered a pastiche to them, because not only is based on a 50's Trading Card Game, but also because it refers many times to them.

Mars Attacks!'s main story ( it consists in many small plots with a lot of characters) revolves around a martian invasion set to the planet earth. When these aliens firstly surround the planet with their millions of spaceships, the man in the power, the president of the United States of A, played by Jack Nicholson, is asked to make decision whether to attack the aliens or welcome them to our planet.
Convinced by the Scientist (Pierce Brosnam) that the martian come in peace, the president opts welcome these species, So the American forces set up a welcoming party to greet the martians. having a translator  they try to communicate to each other, and when seemed to go in the good way, something unexpected happens.
As one dove flies pass the Aliens, they kill it and just after they start to attack the humans just like an invasion. Being pressed by the military forces they fly away.
The president horrid with what happen, asks his scientist what happened, who replies that it may have been a misunderstanding, and insists to connect with the  martians again.
When invited to come down again the martians apply once again a little more of their cruel humour, by pretending that they come in peace and then destroy any possible living soul at the site.
In the second attack the scientist is kidnapped and and held as a experiment in a grotesque yet funny way.
The president not knowing what to do, search for a different solution, tired of being tricked he asks for the army's nuclear services help.  However, such a powerful missile does not have any effect on the martians, as they funnily, absorb it with a machine and give to their leader to smoke it.
Proven incapable to defend against the alien invasion the President of USA, finally quits and in a final face-off with the enemy confronts it and gives a touching speech. In which the alien responds with a tear. However this tear is nothing more than another dark humor joke, as the alien is about to seal the deal with the president, he uses one well-known joke of the fake hand, where the device with live of its own attacks the president and pierces him right in the stomach.
Due to what happened, earth is in the edge of being dominated by Martians,  though funnily enough at the last minute it is saved in a rather unusual way. When a young man tries to rescue his grandmother from home which has been invaded also by the aliens. She distracted by our music, hears the grandson, turns and the headphones, come out of the stereo. Giving the Aliens the chance also to listen maybe one of the most horrid songs of the 1950's. Not used to such exquisite sound aliens die with their brains bursted.
And to save the world the young man and his grandmother travel to the closest radio station and put the tune playing. And there it is the world is saved, not from the tune, but from the aliens.

Mars Attacks! is often bluntly criticized as not a really good film, for instance, Peter Stack from San Francisco Chronicle,  states that [In MarsAttacks] ' Hilarity never seemed so tedious', however Jeffrey Westhoff from Northwest Herald, disagrees by saying  that ' When the film's energy kicks in, though so does Burton's flair for black comedy', indeed, this film creates a pastiche of not only the 1950's Trading Card Games, but also of all the other Sci-fi Invasions genres that appeared before, by slightly twist it into a dark  comedy/ action film, full of gags.
In terms of set design, the highly budgeted sets with last of the technologies and the use of CG at its first steps into the world, really adds a lot to the film, cutting the costs of the overall production.
The array of stars starring in this film is immense, from Jack Nicholson, Glenn Close, Danny De Vito, and many others,  truly emphasizes the idea of high budgeted film with good acting, everything the 1950's b-movies and Sci-fi Films were not known for.
In terms of narrative, and according to Margaret A. McGurk from the Cincinnati Enquirer, '[Mars Attacks!] got attitude, goodness knows; it has stars by the fistful; and it certainly was made with technical skill. What it doesn't have is enough story to fill an hour and 46 minutes.' As McGurk explains this film as a lot of good technical achievements, however it does lack in consistent story-line, leaving the film with a good structure but a weak foundation. Where Burton, used several mini-plots in order to add more interest to the main plot, however he doesn't not succeed.

Truly, an enjoyable film, to understand the meanings of pastiche in cinema specially in the Sci-Fi Genre , and also to learn that a good film is mainly based on a good story-line, therefore a good script.


tutorphil said...

Hey Rubes - nice to see you using quotes in a nicely academic way - but, when you refer to a critic or whomever after the first time, just use their surname, so not 'Mrs McGurk', just use 'McGurk'...

Ruben Alexandre said...

oops, and I thought I was being polite.. I have taken the Mrs. off now !! and lesson learnt!