Tuesday, 11 November 2008

Mars Attacks!!!

Ak ak ak!!!!

Have just been watching Mars Attacks, with sound system turned way up, to hear every ray gun, thundering of every building and army tank blown up, every absurd martian scream. Its a riotous film, one of the late nineties nasty sci-fi satires/amusing rip on sci-fi conventions (along with Verhoeven's amazing Starship Troopers and the Wachowski's Matrix films, as well as Carpenter's Escape From LA, which wasn't as good) before sci-fi got bland again. It's Tim Burton at the end of his great run (From Pee-Wee to this film, with heights such as Beetlejuice, Batman Returns and Ed Wood) before he forgot to edit out the boring scenes or to hire proper writers. (Planet Of the Apes and Big Fish have some truly awful writing and Charlie and The Chocolate Factory lacks solid, focused imagery)

But this is the good stuff. We have an absurd notion of fifties-style martians attacking and the government treating it like they would anything else, stalling, putting off decisions, failing to ever have an idea how to proceed but worried about the press. Hundreds die, including some of their own people, before they do anything. Even then its too little too late. The martians make no sense and the film has a terrific mood of normal common sense invaded by something. People still grip at reality even as the film gets completely absurd and out of control. The film is full of small details that accumulate, has lots of clutter dominating all these people, they unable to get out alive.

See Nicholson's president have important speeches that no-one listens to, that the film puts of to the side of the screen, sounds and visuals of other people getting on with their lives dominating, or proclaim that "I want the American people to know that they still have two out of three of the legislative branches working for them, and that ain't bad" or give the least assuring, most nervous speech to the nation after a national disaster ever. See Nicholson try and talk the martians around while patronising them to an obscene level. George W. Bush must have seen this performance and decided he had to challenge it in incompetence. But even here he fails. He simply isn't as interesting as Nicholson. (It's great to see Nicholson and Rod Steiger talk about little green men as if it's a serious situation)

See the martians blow up congress, Easter island statues, Las Vegas buildings, attack trailer trash and old folk homes. See Jack Black killed as he tries to surrender to the invading hordes while holding the American flag. See the martians saying we are your friends as they mow down innocent people. See Danny Devito killed in a junkyard of old Vegas signs, as he offers the martians his services as a lawyer "You want to conquer the world, you're gonna need lawyers!" See Martin Short try to seduce a martian dressed like a woman, never noticing that something is very wrong while bringing her into the white house (to the Kennedy room to get laid). See the dove of peace and the family dog killed viciously by martians. See Pierce Brosnan give his best performance as a clueless Brit professor who ends up decapitated and declaring his love to Sarah Jessica Parker (whose head is attacked to her dog) in a crashing spaceship. See two black kids defend the president in a white house attack, as they've played video games and know how to mow down the little buggers while everyone else gets killed. The invention goes on and on. I'm amazed that no-one noticed how nuts this film was during production. Its got the look of a film that got away from the studio.

So its fair to say that I'm a fan. My advice to anyone reading this is to track this film down and watch it immediately. And turn the sound way up, because that's where you'll get the best effect.

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