Friday, 4 November 2011

Movie Review - Mars Attacks

The three main comedic genres that imitate and take inspiration from what exists already are spoof, pastiche and parody. A Spoof is a mocking imitation of someone or something, usually light and good humoured so works on trying to capture the stereotype of a person or thing that a viewer can recognise. A spoof can also mean to fool by hoax, to play a trick on someone intended to be deceived so in this case the audience could be the people deceived by what they think the film is showing but might turn out to be different from the obvious. A Pastiche imitates the style another work, artist or period so recreates something that has come before but keeping in some original features that make recognisable as an identity. A Parody is a production of a humorously exaggerated imitation of a writer, artist or genre. Mars Attacks fits into Parody because it mocks the culture of typical science fiction genre in terms of alien invasion and of the 1950's - 60's period.

Figure 1, (2009), The Aliens Arrival

The inspiration for Mars Attacks came from a popular 60's Topps Trading card game and of the period where design and Technicolour were exaggerated to show the achievement of technology at the time. "Although the intent and feel of the film, which is based on some rare Topps trading cards of the early '60's, are very different from "Independence Day", this pic's belligerent aliens and massive worldwide destruction they unleash, including the demolition of Washington DC Landmarks, unavoidably remind of the blockbuster. Burton's picture could even be construed as something of a satire of the summer's monster hit, although it was clearly made with no reference to it." (McCarthy, 2008) Mars Attacks was released roughly the same time as Independence Day and it is clear to see similarities in the structure of story line between them. Both alien races in the films are intent on destroying which is marked with the demolishing of major landmarks to create the serious impact to the viewer that the invaders have the potential of conquering the world within the film because they can topple structures that humans have built throughout history and stood for many years within a blink of an eye. However Mars Attacks is it's own film because Burton has exaggerated the appearance and technology of the aliens to outwit a 50's world and taken out the serious gimmicks that Independence Day fulfils for it's audience, instead Mars Attacks attempts to make it's audience laugh at the silliness of it's style and pathetic feel.

Figure 2, (2010), (1950-Influence) Army

Burton has used typical attributes of 1950's characters and style and brought this forward for the audience of the 1990's. Mashing them to create a world that could exist for the film. "Burton was forced to fill in with more bumbling burlesque character stuff - and since his players where nothing short of cardboard cut-out archetypes (dim President, warmongering General, New Age airhead, etc)..." (Gibron, 2010) Burton carefully selected certain stereotypes that would work in his 50's world influence. The character of Donald Kessler for example is a perfect imitation of an excited scientist, intent to learn about the creatures and trying to find a peaceful solution to co-exist. The character of Natalie Lake is another 50's stereotype of the dim blond news reporter always placing herself in harms way and the obvious victim that the director has chosen for all the disasters to centre around. The character has also traits of ambition as she continuously tries to gain attention from Donald Kessler as he is a professor of science, this translates to the audience as Natalie wanting a different lifestyle that her previous reporter husband in the film, Jason Stone could no longer fulfil.

Figure 3, (2010), Giant Robot (1950 B-Movie influence)

There is a lot of reference to arcade shooters because it begins with two typical children stereotypes obsessed on ditching school to play at the arcades which is later reflected in the style of the guns that the aliens use. "It's fitting that we almost get wiped out by the only species more warlike and testosterone-brained than we are, and Burton is at his funniest when the Martians are zapping away like brats playing a video game." (Gonsalves, 2010) The audience can see the same child-like obsession when they suddenly turn on the human characters and blast them for fun. The design of the aliens make them appear intelligent with their huge brains and promises of peace but under this they are an imitation of the human race because even though they have potential of sharing what they have, they chose to destroy and conquer in order to rebuild and create a new world for their species. This is how people have treated primitive cultures, where they have tried to teach and share their knowledge, the other side has taken the land for themselves and rebuilt the world in their image.


Figure 1, (2009), The Aliens Arrival, @, Accessed on: 28th April 2009

Figure 2, (2010), (1950-Influence) Army, @, Accessed on: 11th August 2010
Figure 3, (2010), Giant Robot (1950 B-Movie influence), @, Accessed on: 1st April 2010


Gibron Bill (2010), DVD Talk - Mars Attacks! (Blu-ray), @, Accessed on: 7th September 2010
Gonsalves Rob, (2007), E Film Critic- Mars Attacks, @, Accessed on: 27th September 2007
McCarthy Todd, (2008), Variety Reviews - Mars Attacks, @, Accessed on: 1st December 1996


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