Ever since humans first started looking into space for exploration, the concept of life on Mars has always been a topic of interest.
The red planet, a planet so similar to Earth in many ways, but so different in many others. Scientists have long speculated about the possibility of life on the planet and the question has long excited the human imagination.
Already in the mid 17th century, polar ice caps were observed on Mars and those were in the 18th century accurately observed to seemingly grow and shrink with the seasons. Other similarities between Mars and the Earth were later discovered in the 19th century. Then speculations also began concerning the darker areas on the surface, as they were perceived to be canals – which made both scientists and science fiction writers quite ebullient.
Science fiction writers soon embraced the concept, writers such as H. G. Wells, told the story of an invasion by aliens from Mars who were fleeing the planet’s desiccation in War of the Worlds. Also, Edgar Rice Burroughs “John Carter” series, among many other authors, inspired people’s imagination in the late 19th early 20th centuries.
Most of the time Martians are depicted as smaller humanoids who are far more technologically advanced. They seem to beat us with their brainpower and technology rather than brute force. Interestingly enough, however, humans tend to win at the end of the day through the application of a cleverly constructed plan which the Martians haven’t thought of.
Tim Burton’s “Mars Attacks!” (1996) has the look and feel of a schlocky 1950s science-fiction movie, and actually inspired by a series of old Topps bubble gum cards. The art direction is first-rate in creating the kinds of saucers and aliens that graced the covers of my precious old issues of Imagination Science Fiction magazine.
With abundant cartoony violence that includes people being turned into skeletons by a death ray, vivisection (and whimsical re-assembly) of living humans, what’s not to like?
Mars Attacks! features an ensemble cast consisting of Jack Nicholson (in a dual role), Glenn Close, Annette Bening, Pierce Brosnan, Danny DeVito, Martin Short, Jack Black, Sarah Jessica Parker, Michael J. Fox, Rod Steiger, Pam Grier, Ray J, Tom Jones, Lukas Haas, Natalie Portman, Jim Brown, Joe Don Baker, Lisa Marie Smith, Brandon Hammond, and Sylvia Sidney.
Released theatrically by Warner Bros. Pictures in 1996, the film received mixed reviews from critics but is not generally considered a cult film.