Our Daily Trailer: MARS ATTACKS!
Now that we've officially gotten Mars' attention, there's a small chance (not really) that we could be invaded by a group of Martians (highly unlikely) affronted by our impudence, bringing to mind today's trailer for Tim Burton's Mars Attacks!, a movie that I always want to be much, much better than it is.
Burton's 1996 take on alien invasions was released a mere five months after Independence Day exploded box offices with similar themes explored in a more solemn effort, leading Burton to fret,
It was just a coincidence. Nobody told me about it. I was surprised how close it was, but then it's a pretty basic genre I guess. Independence Day was different in tone – it was different in everything. It almost seemed like we had done kind of a Mad magazine version of Independence Day."
But hey, there should be plenty of room for two 1996 alien invasion movies if both Dante's Peak and Volcano could come out the very next year. And Mars Attacks! has an incredible cast, starring Jack Nicholson, Glenn Close, Annette Bening, Pierce Brosnan, Martin Short, Sarah Jessica Parker, Michael J. Fox, Rod Steiger, Jim Brown, Lukas Haas, Pam Grier, Natalie Portman, Christina Applegate, Joe Don Baker and Jack Black AMONG OTHERS.
Also, it has this.
The film looks like nothing else, with tons of vivid practical effects and incredible costumes and character designs. Some of the visual gags, like SJP's head on a chihuahua, are unforgettable. The hot, stilted, beehived ladies disguising the Martians' giant brains were modeled to walk after Gloria Swanson's Norma Desmond in Sunset Boulevard, which is a charming little detail. And of course the film has the amazingly fake-looking stop-motion Martians based on the trading card series of the 1960s.
So the movie looks fantastic, and it does a solid job balancing a ton of different storylines, treating their ensemble cast like a true ensemble with every plot getting mostly equal weight. And there are plenty of jokes to be had, but the problem with Mars Attacks! - the problem that keeps it from being a movie that I want to watch multiple times no matter how up my alley it seems - is how wink-wink-nudge-nudgey it is. It's schlocky but it's meta-schlock, which is really the worst kind of schlock. Ebert said it best in his review when he said "the makers felt superior to the material." And that leads the audience to feel superior to the material, which means the material simply isn't good enough for its audience.
Believe in your schlock, people! That's the moral of this little story.