Thursday, 13 August 2009
Based on a series of sci-fi atrocity cards, Tim Burton's Christmas coloured apocalypse is the harebrained, vandal contrast to your typical Hollywood invasion triumph. Here the human race is a vapid gang of idiots bumbling towards extinction, lest they offend their Martian visitors. Every effort is made to ingratiate the cosmic tourists who never fail to misunderstand, slaughter, then cackle. If you really want, Mars Attacks! can be read as a critique of either political leaning. To wit: 'wimpy' liberals prostrates themselves in the face of something alien while the conservative spectrum is represented by an emotionally sterile WASP, a bellowing military man, and reactionary trailer folk who regard their television set as intergalactic bounty. People, regardless of allegiance, are simply noise in this film.
Mars Attacks! works hard to present a domestic race that not only seems to be actively pursuing annihilation, but perhaps even deserves it too. The relationship between the two species is broadly that of a comedy double-act. The humans are the straight man, the naive stooge to the jittery Martian jokers. We feed the invaders endless rope with which to hang us; the space-men twitching excitedly at the sheer stupidity of their adversaries. Warner Brothers spent $100 million bringing Burton's Topps card vision to the screen, what did they get? A prank. Mars Attacks! is a riot of sugar-high slaughter completely antithetical to any kind of established blockbuster narrative. There's never any sense that the Martians want anything from Earth. There's no asides about plundering resources or any other sort of material currency. Instead, the Martians simply want to destroy everything they see, preferably with the maximum amount of skylarking whimsy. Intergalactic wrong 'uns, with Tex Avery mindsets, and gee-whizz extermination technology. It's impossible not to love these little green men. They just want to have fun.