Mars Attacks! – Nostalgia Critic

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It’s known as one of Tim Burton’s biggest blunders, but it’s also getting a bit of a following. Is it worth it? Nostalgia Critic takes a look at Mars Attacks!

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About Doug Walker

Creator of 5 Second Movies, Nostalgia Critic, Bum Reviews and more.

70 comments

  1. So you can understand Sleep Hollow is meant to be a tribute to Hammer films, but you don’t get that Mars Attack is meant to be a tribute to old schlocky sci-fi films? big shock….

    • He understood it but he didn’t think it was executed well

      • Generally, I think the NC is on the mark, but I do disagree on this, Mister Bowmen. I think based on what he was saying, he did miss the point of the film.

        • I mean, I do agree with a few of his complaints, but I found it funy, charming, and very entertaining as a schlocky B movie. Could it have balanced it all out more with the action and violence, sure, but overall, I feel like he missed the mark on the whole thing.

          It also hurt that his jokes about the film were not funny. yelling COMMENTARY is not funny.

        • What is the point, he mentioned the film was a spoof of B movies from the 50s

    • Except it’s really not, at all. A tribute to old sci-fi films would’ve played it straight and not once made fun of the source material, this movie doesn’t do that. It plagiarizes bad B movies at certain points but that’s not the same thing as giving them tribute. You want to see a movie that actually IS a tribute to old sci-fi films watch the 80s Flash Gordon movie. Mars Attacks is just random shit.

    • First of all, you just need to watch Ed Wood and Mars Attacks to tell how different they are and how different Tim Burton can approach a movie.
      Ed Wood has heart and soul and truly IS trying to at the same time pay tribute to Ed Wood and his movies as he is showing how bizarre (and funny) Wood’s biography really is.
      Mars Attacks is trying too hard to be clever or funny and mostly isn’t either, specially when The Simpsons episodes featuring Kodos and Kang are way funnier than anything this movie tries to do.

    • Also it is worth to mention that Tim Barton originally try make American McGee Alice adaptation. He has licence but he couldn’t find sponsor for so weird project. Over time his licence expired and because they release Alice Nightmare Return (great game by the way) they decide to not renew it. And so because Burton already make some work on it he sell own design to Disney who make sequel of they cartoon instead. It is quite clear in the movie that it has two designs.. what was great is great, but what was cheese out was lazy as hell.

    • You must not have watched it toward the end, because he comments on this a few times.

  2. As a kid living in Israel, I used to think that this movie was an allegory of the whole peace process….

  3. Way I have understood Mars Attacks is basically tribute to those old schlocky sci-fi films. Nothing more, nothing less. It does make Critic’s complains about it weird even if you think that he was trying to be funny by miss understanding movie.

    • oh it’s so weird..like he constantly complains about it not being funny, when he misses the entire point that it was meant to be this simple tribute to schlocky B-grade 50s sci-fi films. It’s like he never watched old movies before….

      • Gee I wonder why he would complain about the movie that was marketed as a comedy not being funny? It’s not like the purpose of a comedy is to get laughs right? Oh wait, it is.

        • Yeah, I have to agree here. Just because this movie is an “homage” or pays tribute does NOT mean it’s a good movie, and it sounds to me like people are just making excuses for it.

          I never laughed once through this whole film (the one that was advertised as a comedy), and it was incredibly painful to sit through. I got that it was shot in that 50s-ish style, I got that it was supposed to be like old sci-fi films… it was still terrible, and horribly unfunny.

          “Tribute” does not automatically equal “good.”

  4. Where’s the quote at the end? Where’s the charity shout out? Where’s the intro? This review was just lacking everything. I heard of this movie. Heard it was just okay.

  5. Okay, everyone in the comments is all like

    “YOU JUST DON’T GET IT!” “IT’S SUPPOSED TO BE SHLOCKY!”

    I get that it’s supposed to be a pastiche of dumb, shlocky 50’s sci-fi B-Movies. That doesn’t make it funny. That doesn’t make it interesting. IT just makes it a long, stupid, self-indulgent waste of time, talent, and money.

    The plot might as well not even be there. The only two jokes this movie has are “Look! The aliens talk with an annoying voice!” and “Look! [Insert random celebrity here] is dying!” This movie has accomplished nothing. If I wanted to watch a pastiche of terrible B-Movies, I have WAY better options.

  6. I’m convinced that Tim Burton had a big party once with all of these stars as guests, they all got drunk, went into a costume closet, and that’s how they decided to make this movie.

  7. Dear Nostalgia Critic,

    Please review Dangerously Close from 1986! I see potential for a review.

  8. This movie is actually based off of a series of trading cards from the early 60’s. The series was called Mars Attacks and the Martians in the movie look exactly like the ones on the cards. In the trading cards, though, they also attack with giant insect monsters, which I was kind of disappointed didn’t show up somehow. The cards were very controversial for the amount of gore and violence they had in them.

  9. Okay, as an adult, I find enjoyment in the effects, sets and action sequences. But as a kid? This movie scared the HELL out of me. Yeah, I saw it opening weekend and had a death grip on my mom’s hand the whole time.

    But here’s the weird thing, if you look at all the cards and comics this is based on? It’s actually super faithful. Yeah, the franchise has always had an air of this weird mean-spiritedness too it. So in that end, it’s absolutely fine.

  10. Mars Attacks was Ok but when they made a Crossover comic with the classic g1 transformers cartoon that was a few steps better than the movie but then again its just comics.

  11. 0:51- Ha, and I turned 6 when Batman Returns was released.

    Screw you. People like me actually like Independence Day.

    9:20- I think it’s nice that the Martians are doing crazy experiments on one of the Four Whores of the Apocalypse from Sex and the City. And yes, that is what I call the leading ladies from that goddamn show.

    13:35- True dat, yo.

    15:41- You mean like what Rosamund Pike did to Neil Patrick Harris in Gone Girl?

    I like to think of Mars Attacks as Tim Burton’s comedic homage of the alien invader movies from the 1950s, but I agree that there are a lot of random moments.

  12. A couple people sort of beat me to it, but yes, while this is sort-of kind-of a tribute to 50s B-movies, it’s mostly an adaptation of the actual source material, a series of ultra-gory trading cards featuring Martians killing people in horrific ways. The only thing funny about the cards were how crazy and over-the-top the deaths were, but they were still pretty awful (one is just a Martian blasting a kid’s dog to death while he watches) and were mostly meant to appeal to kids via shock value. I’m guessing Tim Burton knew he couldn’t play it completely straight because of how campy the aliens looked and how gratuitous the carnage was, so he decided to make it a comedy, but still kept in a bit of cruelty, murder and gore, which is why the whole thing seems random and disconnected. I think the mistake was thinking that Mar Attacks could be adapted into a film in the first place- like Garbage Pail Kids, it should really have stayed as a card series.

  13. I don’t know who 80% of these celebrities are. I just don’t pay attention to who gets cast in things, or never saw the things they were in.

  14. Surprised he didn’t mention the card game it was based on.

  15. Could never watch this movie. It triggers my Trypophobia. As it is, I’m watching this review with side eyes when the brain aliens show up.

  16. Ok I haven’t even seen the video yet because of that stupid Stardust ad promo at the start of it. I can’t stand reaction videos and the fact that there is an entire app just for that very thing sets me off similar to you with anyone mentioning the Bat Credit Card. Please find something else to advertise or I’m going to stop watching your videos for the foreseeable future! I’m still debating whether it’s worth it for me to continue watching this one knowing that ad is coming about half way through it.

    • The Real Silverstar

      Here’s a wacky thought: try moving your cursor to that little dot on the progress bar at the bottom of the screen and manipulate it to skip past the parts you don’t want to see. But no, complaining about who these guys can manage to get to help pay for their videos is so much easier.

    • Yeah, don’t just mute the ad or anything. Threatening to leave if Doug doesn’t find another sponsor is a much more mature and rational plan of action for this first world problem.

    • They’re easy to skip and Doug has to make money, so I can’t complain as harshly as you, but it really does seem like a stupid product. I might occasionally watch Brad review a movie from his car if it’s something I was interested in seeing anyway, because he’s good at analyzing movies, is funny, and I know he won’t drop spoilers without warning. But I wouldn’t be interested in seeing some rando’s reaction to it, any more than I am interested in hearing what they had for lunch that day. Stardust seems like it’s perfectly designed to reinforce the stereotype of Millennial narcissism.

    • I’m not complaining that he’s advertising. I’m complaining about this ad in particular. Yes I can’t stand reactions and the last thing I want to hear is about some app that is nothing but that. The ad is so long it’s hard to skip it without ending up still in the middle of it even after skipping a minute or so in to the video once the ad starts. It makes me want to strangle the person (people) that created that dumb app and almost Doug along with them for how excited he is promoting it. Don’t take me complaining as me just looking for an excuse to complain. I complain because I see a problem with something and I’m hoping to bring it to light so it can fixed. He’s had other advertisers in the past I didn’t mind but I’m drawing the line at this Stardust app. I would rather not see something like that getting as much spotlight as Dough is putting on it. Also you guys mention some dot to skip to but I’ll be honest I use an ad blocker so I don’t see any dot and the Stardust ad is part of the video itself and is about 2 minutes or so long from what I can tell with the number of skips I have to do to get past it and always seeing the part where he mentions his own reaction video to his own review which again I really don’t care about. Yes I don’t even care to see a reaction video from Dough himself especially not on that stupid app. Also if you think stupid ads won’t stop me from seeing something note that I didn’t see the Muppets Most Wanted movie because of all the ads I was seeing them in on TV and all the stupid car ads I’ve seen for the new Star Wars movie have made me not want to see it in theaters either so yes stupid ads will cause me not to watch something simply so I don’t support the advertisers so me threatening to stop watching Dough’s videos is not an idle one and there are plenty of other things I can watch instead. Again I wouldn’t have bothered saying anything if I didn’t want to see it fixed and made better. I just want him to find a different sponsor and stop talking about Stardust like it’s the greatest thing ever.

  17. Stardust reactions are seriously getting annoying, at this point.
    I don’t care about a reaction of some nobodies.

    It was fine with Rhapsittie Street Kids, but now, it’s a nuisance.

    • Then skip them

      • It’s easy to say. There’s no button to skip directly to the review if you don’t want to watch them.
        Besides, we were fine when they weren’t there. Hell, most of these aren’t even funny or trying to be funny.

        I feel like it’s gonna be there for a long time because Doug needs the money.

        • Are *you* willing to start paying Doug to keep making these NC episodes? No? Then suck it up, buttercup! Content doesn’t finance itself, you know.

          • Doug could just hide his videos behind a pay wall. Would you prefer it if he did that? I’m so sorry about you being inconvenienced slightly.

  18. I Like Mars Attacks. Just plain silly fun! I never saw Jack Nicolson in a comedy before!

  19. I always loved this film for its sheer insanity. For me, it’s pretty much a better version of Independence Day because at least this film knows it’s crap and just has fun with it.

    • I agree. I think it’s a lot of fun to watch and has a lot of cheesy charm. He took this film so seriously and his jokes weren’t funny. Ironic since he thought the film wasn’t funny and he thinks screaming is funny……

  20. I LOVE 50% of Tim Burton’s movies. This movie is very odd. I didn’t love it but I didn’t hate it. I would probably like it better if it had the classic Tim Burton aesthetic. I didn’t realize that this was supposed to be a comedy though. O.O If that’s true, this didn’t do a very good job. Also, I’ve never seen Attack of the Killer Tomatoes so I didn’t know about the music weakness plotline.

  21. This was just after he made Ed Wood and Mars Attacks has a lot in common with Plan 9 from Outer Space. the whole “translated language from radio” thing for example.

  22. wait I’ve always thought “Return of the Killer Tomatoes” was a sequel to a non-existing movie called “Attack of the Killer Tomatoes” but it DOES exist?? oO

  23. I always thought Mars Attacks was… fine. It was weird, mildly funny, relatively entertaining. So basically, a perfectly average Tim Burton movie.

    And to be honest, I’d rather watch this movie than any of Tim Burton’s recent outings. At least here you have him experimenting and trying stuff out, instead of simply having John Depp don some dark makeup and then mug for the camera.

  24. I love the look of the Martians, but I alway thought this movie was just kind of mediocre. My favourite Tim Burton movie is still his very first feature, Pee Wee’s Big Adventure.

  25. In 2011, I cobbled together a documentary about Tim Burton.

    https://vimeo.com/61613873

  26. You completely misunderstood this movie. Why are you looking for laughs in every scene? Its not a comedy

    • I just love how some people keep using the excuse “It’s not a comedy” in an attempt to justify why it wasn’t funny. “Why are you looking for laughs in every scene?” Because the movie was *marketed* as a comedy and it sure as heck wasn’t meant to be taken seriously, so how are the viewers at fault for expecting there to be laughs?

    • The Real Silverstar

      I sincerely hope you’re being sarcastic.

      The whole Mars Attacks! franchise was an intentional spoof of campy B-grade 1950’s era sci-fi movies. I don’t know of any spoofs which aren’t comedies. Next you’ll be telling us that the Airplane! and Naked Gun! movies weren’t comedies.

  27. so… no charity shout out??

  28. How could you not hate Sarah Jessica Parker and her chihuahua heads are switched.

  29. ForDarkIsTheSuede

    The first NC of the year is Mars Attacks!, my favorite movie of ALL TIME?? HOT DAMN, 2018 is off to a good start so far!!! I’ve been waiting YEARS for you to review this, Doug! Regardless of what your opinion might be, of course! I made an account just to comment!!

    I know Mars Attacks! isn’t for everyone. It’s notorious for being a movie you either love or downright hate. It’s not just a comedy – it’s a dark comedy and a tribute to both 50’s scifi and one of the most cult-classic trading card series to ever be released, Topp’s Mars Attacks! set, which had a limited original run of 55 cards and only sold for 3 months in 1962 until it was pulled from the shelves. The series was marked as gruesome and disturbing for its time, hot off the heels of Topps’ Civil War series, which kids ate up because holy shit, graphic violence and gory wounds!! Only Mars Attacks! was graphic violence on alien invaders and women being snatched up and giant insects destroyed the planet. Parents were none too happy about that, so they complained Very Loudly, and Topps listened. Neat, huh? So let’s talk about how them in movie context! (Also: I’m writing this as I watch the review. Movie notes are also in there.)

    >The opening scene of cattle on fire is actually a scene taken from a card – #22, Burning Cattle! It’s one of the more gruesome cards, and depicted pretty accurately in the film. (The back of the card describes the Martians doing this to hurt the Earth’s food supply, the farm shown being one of many. Kinda wish they had more of a nod to that in the film, but whatevs.)

    >The opening credits sequence is likely both a nod to classic alien invader movies and trading cards #1, The Invasion Begins, and #2, Martians Approaching. I always liked how they chose to depict the Martians flying in a triangular shape in the film, rather than the straight lines/clusters in the cards. Gives it somethin’ extra.

    >The original card series had a portion of the cards depicting Giant Insects Destroying Cities. I’m told that these weren’t as popular to swap around the schoolyard as anything with the Big Brained Skull-Faced Aliens, though, because who cares about bugs when you have fucking freaky aliens to look at all day? Honestly I would’ve loved to see some giant insects stuck in the preservation tanks on the ships, though. Would’ve been a nice nod.

    >Admittedly Annette Benning’s character doesn’t add a lot to the movie, and there was no New Age types of characters in the card series, but she is there to add the more “modern” perspective to the movie. There are always going to be UFO-nuts that think that aliens would come down to become The Savior of Mankind, and originally that’s what Annette’s spiritual character is portraying. Naturally, after seeing the original meeting on Earth go south, her attitude to that changes and she returns to her old vice of alcohol. Some people could just find her entire character/mini-arc amusing, I guess? I always thought she was kinda silly, but I always liked her being there. The movie wouldn’t quite feel right without her, even if she wasn’t the one responsible for saving the Ragtag Group of Characters by a) shooting an alien in the face and b) leading them to a safe spot (the Tahoe Caves) to hide out.

    >The Trailer Family is there to add another kind of perspective, of course, but I’ll admit that they could’ve written funnier lines for them. Still, I like that Richie (y’know, Donut Boy) goes from being the Family Disappointment to Hero by rushing out to save Amnesiac Grandma and uses the Secret to Destroying the Martians to full effect. And the Donut Shop’s a more modern landmark that gets destroyed, so we can technically check that off the trading-card-trope list.

    >And I liked Byron and his family! I think Byron acted as sort of a security guard to the casino? They never explained it, but I always kinda liked that. His family was another perspective, the city-dwelling, breaking-apart-but-coming-together-in-the-end kind. Both Byron and his sons become heroes in different ways – one through utilizing his old once-shelved skills, and the others utilizing the target practice they honed. (In the movie novelization, it’s mentioned that the kids were kinda-sorta joining up with a gang, which is why they could shoot so well, but it’s never mentioned in the movie so it’s not canon. The novelization isn’t very good, anyway. :\ I like how they used just video game skills to improve shooting; the Martian guns are probably pretty lightweight and easy to use, considering the Martian’s thin physiques, so it works!)

    >Yes, the entire first half hour is slow, but it’s there to build characters and settings – the card series depicted people and places from all across the country, and the world, so it’s natural that the movie would depict a lot of different types of characters to help represent this. Could the character set-ups have been funnier? Sure. But while the movie is always marketed as a dark comedy, you’ve gotta remember – Mars Attacks! is a tribute film *first* and a dark comedy *second*. Comedy can wait when you have Trading Card Homages to do!

    >Speaking of, Billy’s death scene is another directly taken from the cards – #19, Burning Flesh, combined with #18, a Soldier Fights Back!

    >I think the whole first greeting scene may be a nod to #3, Attacking an Army Base, but of course it’s set differently.

    >Wait, you didn’t mention the Martian Leader reading the PlayBoy?! Just…missed that, or something? I always found that giggle-worthy. It’s a nice shout-out to the two cards in the series that depicted Martians being interested in women (#17, Beast and the Beauty, and #21, Prize Captive) as well as the classic sci-fi trope of aliens being fascinated in human women!

    >Speaking of that scene, I’m surprised you didn’t look at some of the containers in the ship! There’s some neat stuff in there.

    >The dog’s death is an homage to #36, Destroying a Dog. (RIP Rusty…you were truly a Good Boy.)

    >Watching the destruction unfold is an obvious take on #13, Watching From Mars. The difference is that we never see what the houses on Mars look like and instead just stay on the ships. Still, the movie showing the Martians walking around in red Y-fronts and drinking martinis is completely accurate!

    >Washington’s destruction is also taken from #5, Washington in Flames; the back of the card actually mentions the Washington Monument being destroyed, but it doesn’t show it. Thankfully the film fills in that blank!

    >Speaking of, when the plane is shot down in the Washington-destruction scenes, it’s likely a homage to #4, Saucers Blast Our Jets. (I have this movie memorized, okay, I don’t care if you didn’t show that clip.)

    >The general chaos shown around the world isn’t necessarily on one or two cards, but mentioned across several. There’s cards like #7, Destroying a Bridge, #8, Terror in Times Square, #15, Saucers Invade China, and #16, Panic in Parliament (which is likely where the influence to blow up congress came from). I’m actually glad the movie chose more locations to show being destroyed – gives it a more global scale than what’s shown in the cards (though they do mention it everywhere).

    >The robot’s design in the trailer chase scene is clearly taken from #32, Robot Terror! I love the claw arms and clear dome top and lasers that shoot out whenever. The movie captured it well!
    >Also…HOW DID YOU NOT MENTION THE MARTIANS DROOLING OVER THAT COUPLE HAVING SEX IN THE TRAILER PARK?! It seems like something you’d comment on, since it was so strange! I always laugh at that scene!

    >The General’s shrinking is an obvious take on #24, The Shrinking Ray. I always loved that scene, it remains one of my favorites to this day!

    >I always liked the President’s death scene! He gave a heartfelt speech of his own making and ended up dying by the coolest device ever!

    >The original series ended with Earthlings going to war on the actual surface of Mars, depicting violent scenes of Martians dying and ending with the planet blowing up. Of course, the cards also had a whole reason why Mars went to war anyway – the planet was literally going to explode and they needed a new home, and hey Earth is next door! I actually like both the card and movie plots. In another universe, there’s probably a MA! movie that was done seriously and it has that plot…

    TLDR – this entire movie is purely an homage! To the trading cards, to classic sci-fi movies, and to tropes! So naturally there’s a lot of nods and “rip-offs” of other classic sci-fi cheese! There’s actually a book covering the whole trading card series and it’s history from Topps and Abrams Comic Arts, and it does mention the film, too. It’s a pretty cool read!

  30. OK, so here is my take. Mars Attack was one of my favourite films as a kid, and I think that is probably why I still love it for what it is; a fun and silly homage to old Sci-Fic and a card game that was also playing with the viewers expectations.

    Donuts Boy was the failure who became a hero, whilst his all-American hero brother died in the first scene dispute the build up.

    All the characters are riffs on their role’s real-life counterparts (some feeling more relevant than ever):

    – the self-righteous hippy who indulges in all she proclaims is evil, such money.

    – the slime-ball media handler for the President (no comment there)

    – the extremist capitalist… etc

    Yes, sure, this is not deep and subtle humour, but it is an homage to 50’s Sci-Fic and a card game with burning cows, subtly was not really the point.

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