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Mars Attacks!

The following, like all Wikipedia plot summaries, may give away plot surprises: Wikipedia contains spoilers

Mars Attacks! (1996), a science fiction film directed by Tim Burton, was a big-budget production masquerading as a B-movie. The film is visually impressive, as are most of Burton's films, and highly dependent upon special effects. The film's soundtrack by Danny Elfman makes extensive use of the theremin.

In many ways one could be led to think that the film parodies another large Hollywood production, Independence Day; however, both Mars Attacks! and Independence Day, and Star Trek: First Contact, which delt with another alien invasion of the Earth, were released in the same year, 1996. Mars Attacks! is based on a science fiction trading card series created by Topps in 1962. The exaggerated comic violence of the movie is only slightly more emphasized than in the original cards.

The plot is fairly simple but contains some interesting variations on the normal Martian invasion movie. The premise is that the Martians have turned up on Earth and the US President (played by Jack Nicholson) seeks to gain maximum PR points by establishing a friendly relationship. (Nicholson also plays another role in the movie, that of a Las Vegas real-estate speculator). The Martians however reject these overtures and proceed to wreak havoc with their spectacular red and green death-ray guns.

As in the film The War of the Worlds, a simple weapon is ultimately found to counter the alien invaders: in this instance it is the playing of a piece of singularly awful yodelling music, Indian Love Call performed by Slim Whitman. Some have criticized this as being far too similar to the Excretory B-Movie Attack of the Killer Tomatoes, where the killer tomatoes were also caused to explode when exposed to a particularly bad song.

Cast list: Jack Nicholson (two roles), Danny DeVito, Joe Don Baker, Annette Bening, Michael J. Fox, Sarah Jessica Parker, Pierce Brosnan, Jim Brown, Tom Jones

See also Mars in fiction.