Thursday, February 18, 2010

Mars Attacks! - Secret right-wing, warmongering satire?

Having watched Mars Attacks! again recently, I noticed two things. First off, while it hasn't aged incredibly well, it still works as an all-encompassing satire of the blockbuster itself. Secondly, it actually seems on the surface to be one of the most biting right-wing, pro-war comedies ever released in mainstream theaters.

I have no idea of Burton's politics or his intent beyond affectionate homage to 1950s invasion films, but the film spends its entire running time mocking the pacifists and idealists who think that the aliens are merely misunderstood. Pretty much everyone runs around in confusion as the martians commit one act of mass violence after another, refusing to out and out engage the enemy invaders until it's too late. Granted, no one in the film, including Rod Steiger's hawkish general, comes off looking terribly good, but the satirical portraits of Pierce Brosnan's 'let's try to reason with them' scientist, Anette Benning's 'we come in peace' clueless hippie, Martin Short's Dick Morris-ish press secretary (pre-GOP defection), and Paul Winfield's sycophant variation on Colin Powell (to say nothing of its treatment of the press) would make the film a favorite over at Big Hollywood if taken at face value. Either way, the movie is still pretty damn funny.

Scott Mendelson


Aden Jordan said...

"Mars Attacks!" was the first film where I personally began to really doubt Burton's artistic skills, and I do think that the quality of his movies did start to drop off after that film.

You're right about the political brushstrokes in the sense that the well-meaning liberals in the film come across as the most naive and foolish.

It's a strange, dark, inconsistent movie for sure.

beingsshepherd said...

I disagree that the film is funny, but you've right about it being a right-wing, jingoistic attack on peaceniks (and I'd say at least the U.S. left in general).

I believe it should be mentioned, how chronologically close its release was to the advent of Rupert Murdoch's Fox News Channel, the subsequent Iraq war-themed 'Three Kings' film, and the presidency of George W. Bush (commencing the interminable "War on Terror").


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