Well, to get back into the swing of things here I thought I’d take a second and go through a my DVD collection by director for awhile, starting with one of my favorites, Tim Burton. When I was younger I don’t think I realized that there was even such a thing as a director, and honestly I’m still not exactly sure exactly what a director is responsible for, but it’s hard to deny that some stand out more than others. Well the first director that I recognized by name was probably Tim Burton, probably because of Batman, though Beetlejuice was also high up on my list of favorite movies at the time.
I figured it’d be fun to get some of my least favorite DVDs out of the way first, so today I’m going to talk a little bit about Mars Attacks!, one of only two movies that I can think of which are based on trading card sets (the other being Garbage Pail Kids the Movie.) I first saw Mars Attacks in the theater with my friend Jeremy a little bit after we graduated from high school, which was a heavy theater-going time for me. I think I was averaging about 1 flick every two weeks or so during that time because I finally had a car and could go by myself, not to mention that I worked the night shift and there wasn’t much else to do during the day when I couldn’t sleep.
By this time I was a pretty big fan of Burton’s, having basically come of age watching Pee Wee’s Big Adventure, Batman and Batman Returns, Beetlejuice, and Edward Scissorhands. I also loved Ed Wood, which I saw after picking up Plan 9 From Outer Space on clearance at my local Media Play based on the tag line that it was the worst movie ever and loving it. When Mars Attacks came out I thought Burton could do no wrong and I fully expected to fall in love with the flick. Sadly I didn’t. Actually I hated it the first time I saw it. I’ve never been a big fan of CGI and the flick is loaded to the gills with it, which surprised me since one of the reasons I dug Burton so much was his amazing work with practical effects and set design. It didn’t help that I wasn’t all that familiar with the card set and I was kind of getting sick of the trend where actors would play multiple parts in films (ala Eddie Murphy.)
There was one scene in the flick that I loved though, enough so that years later when I was browsing through the $5 DVD section in Target I couldn’t help but pick the flick up. The scene in question involves Sarah Jessica Parker and Pierce Brosnan. They both have their heads removed and there’s this crazy moment when their severed heads are rolling around and then they come together with a kiss. While I was re-watching it recently it occurred to me that this is the key to this film. Sure it’s got a silly plot and it’s mostly about inane visuals, which typically makes me tune out while watching a film, but in this films case it’s truly it’s strength. See the flick is based on a trading card set, and at the end of the day that’s all this film really is, a collection of crazy scenes that are very loosely connected into a story. Any one of these scenes would make an awesome trading card, and the inane plot which drives it would perfectly fit in a small caption, either on the front or as a summary on the back. The fact that Burton and Jonathon Gems (the screenwriter) would try and focus on this aspect of the source material astounds me. In fact it sounds more like a film school experiment than a big budget Hollywood film, which I think took a lot of guts and is also probably to blame for it’s lack of acceptance.
This is what I would consider to be one of the perfect discount DVDs, one that I would have a hard time paying much more than the cost of a good lunch for. I do have to admit though that I probably wouldn’t have as much admiration for it if another director had done it, but then again, I can’t imagine too many other people out there who would have (well maybe the Chiodo brothers who brought us the classic Killer Klowns From Outer Space.)