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25 Years of Mars Attacks!

I’m glad people enjoyed the Leonard Rosenman memories yesterday. Today’s post is way more stupid.

I can’t believe it’s been 25 years since Mars Attacks! was released (on December 13, 1996). I had recently moved to Los Angeles and was living in (and operating FSM out of) a tiny studio apartment near the Mayfair on Franklin with very loud neighbors who drove me crazy. It wasn’t a happy time of my life. But I was in L.A. and still had excitement for being “where it all happened.”

Inverse just published a great oral history about the movie—check it out.

I thought Mars Attacks! was hilarious. 1996 was the year of alien invasion movies—first Independence Day, a monster hit, which seemed incredibly stupid to me though apparently people treated it like it was a straight-up serious docudrama or something.

Mars Attacks! initially looked like it would be Tim Burton weird, but also full of legitimate action and thrills (the way Batman had been). But it turned out to be total farce. As more and more of the grade-A cast got killed, and the film became stupider and stupider and more ruthless in frustrating our expectations, I felt like I could sense the audience turning against it. (I might have seen a press screening? I don’t recall.)

It was exciting that Danny Elfman was back with Tim Burton, after they had a falling-out on The Nightmare Before Christmas and Howard Shore scored Ed Wood (doing a terrific job).

I think I had a cassette of Elfman’s specially recorded trailer music to Mars Attacks! and dug the jaunty Martian space-navy theme.

When the Martians’ heads exploded from the Slim Whitman song, I was dying in hysterics. Sorry, spoilers.

It ended up being Tim Burton’s $70M private joke, at Warner Bros.’ expense.


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Robert Knaus
Robert Knaus
Dec 15, 2021

For dark is the suede that mows like...a harvest.


John Schuermann
John Schuermann
Dec 14, 2021

Never saw all of Mars Attacks, but any film that's at least partially inspired by Monster Zero must have at least some redeeming value. Agree with you totally about Independence Day. I have a special category for films like it: "aggressively stupid." Movies that seem to deadly earnest and deadly dumb at the same time. To this day I can't see what people enjoy about it, except for a few well executed special effects sequences. To me it was especially offensive since I've always wanted to see a smart, epic alien invasion epic that plays out on a grand scale. Independence Day was not it, but the elements were there.

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