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Film: Mars Attacks!

Mars Attacks was originally a trading card series from Topps published in the early sixties. Created by Wally Wood, this series depicted an Alien Invasion in the style of EC Comics horror and science fiction stories at the time. The series was quickly discontinued due to Moral Guardians who were horrified by the series' violence. The series would later be continued by Topps in the form of new trading cards and a comic series. A movie soon followed.

This movie was directed by Tim Burton and depicted gleefully destructive Martians as opposed to the more violent and terrifying versions seen in the trading cards or comics. Notable for its all-star Ensemble Cast, including Jack Nicholson, Lukas Haas, Annette Bening, Jim Brown, Pierce Brosnan, Sarah Jessica Parker, Glenn Close, Martin Short, Michael J. Fox, Jack Black, Natalie Portman note , Pam Grier, Danny DeVito, Tom Jones and Jack Nicholson (again). Hilarity Ensues as most of them are jokingly killed off with bizarre weaponry as cheesily as possible.

Was not very popular with critics or audiences at the time of its release, probably because they didn't get the joke. Has now become a cult favorite of the movie viewers community.

In 2012, IDW Publishing launched a new ongoing Mars Attacks comic series. This later led into a crossthrough event where, in one-shots, the Martians attacked such characters as The Transformers, KISS and even Popeye.


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    Movie 
This movie contains examples of:

  • Achilles' Heel: See Brown Note below.
  • Acting for Two: Jack Nicholson as President Jimmy Dale and solipsistic casino mogul Art Land. Both characters die messily.
  • Adaptation Distillation: The Plot Tumor giant bugs aren't included in the film.
  • Adaptation Expansion: The film was based on a series of rather gruesome trading cards from the 1960s.
  • Affably Evil: See "Blatant Lies".
  • Affectionate Parody: 1950's science fiction B movies.
  • Aliens Are Bastards: Funny bastards, too. Why they're being such bastards is never explained, which is probably for the best.
  • Alien Hair: "Tenctonese."
  • Alien Invasion
  • Aliens Speaking English: Massive aversion.
  • Aliens Steal Cattle: Parodied in the opening scene.
  • All-Star Cast
  • Anyone Can Die: And does!
    • Though awesomely subverted with Byron.
  • Armies Are Evil: See General Ripper below.
    • The Martians' army is no doubt this.
  • As Himself: Tom Jones.
  • Asshole Victim: Billy-Glen, his parents, and Land.
    • This is also enforced pretty strongly with Danny Devito's character who is a Bit Character that only gets about five minutes of screentime. Within those five minutes, he reveals he is a lawyer and offers his services to a Martian who quickly zaps him. They really wanted to make sure the audience didn't sympathize too much just before bumping him off.
  • Ax-Crazy: The Martians and the overly hawkish General Decker.
  • Berserk Button: The Martians really don't like birds.
  • Big "Shut Up!": The President, when General Decker tries to get him to order a nuclear strike on the Martians.
    Gen. Decker: We have to strike now, sir! Annihilate! Kill! Kill! Kill! Kill —
    President Dale: SHUT UP! Shut-up-shut-up!
  • Bittersweet Ending: Most of the main cast is dead, including the entire American government, and the destruction has taken a huge toll on America but at least Richie and his grandmother were able to stop the Aliens and Byron is able to survive and reunite with his family.
  • Black Humor: There's several moments of this throughout the film but Jack Black being killed horribly, it being caught on every camera and it cutting to his parents frantically flipping through channels to try and escape the image but being unable to do so because it's on EVERY channel probably takes the cake.
  • Black Dude Dies First: General Casey is the first human to die when the aliens attack. Later in the film, Byron Williams makes a Heroic Sacrifice and fights the aliens off so Barbara, Tom Jones and a colleague can escape in Barbara's plane. When they fly over, it looks like the aliens have beaten him to death. It turns out he was Only Mostly Dead and makes a triumphant return to Washington D.C. to reunite with his family.
  • Blatant Lies: The Martians yelling "Don't run! We are your friends!" as they are chasing humans with a big freaking disintegrator ray.
    • Although what they were actually saying may have been entirely different; the alien translator machine never working right was sort of a Running Gag. It's also possible that the Martians realised this and chose to cart it around because they thought it was funny. They did have a habit of calling truces, only to attack moments later.
  • Blood Knight: General Decker
  • Blue and Orange Morality: The Martians, period.
  • Brain in a Jar: See Losing Your Head below.
  • Brandishment Bluff: When the Martian Leader addresses congress he yanks out his speech as if he's about to pull out a gun. The second time, when congress is lulled into a more relaxed state...
  • Brick Joke: One reporter asks the President "if the Martians have two sexes, like we do." Later, Kessler performs an autopsy on a Martian and finds that they lack genitalia.
  • Brown Note: The aliens are defeated by the playing of the Slim Whitman song "Indian Love Call".
  • Celebrity Survivor: Singer Tom Jones (As Himself), and last but not least, Byron Williams, HEAVYWEIGHT! CHAMPION! OF THE WORLD!
  • Cheese-Eating Surrender Monkeys: An example so completely over the top, it could only possibly be a parody. Granted, the US fell for the same trick three times.
  • Chekhov's Skill: The kids are seen early in the movie shooting the aliens in a video game. Guess what happens later on? During their field trip in the White House they are attacked and they save the day by taking some Martian guns and saving the president. Whether this is good or bad thing is your decision.
  • Cloud Cuckoolander: Florence Norris (possibly due to senility and/or dementia), and Barbara.
    • The Cuckoolander Was Right: After witnessing the massacre in Pahrump, Barbara tries to convince her husband that what the Martians did was no misunderstanding, but he won't listen. She then plans on packing up and heading to a remote location in Tahoe.
  • Cute Monster Girl: Subverted; it's only a disguise. Also she looks really really creepy, check out the picture at the top of the page.
    • She also moves in a completely inhuman way: She walks like she's rolling on wheels, and has a very disturbing left-right arm motion while doing so.
  • Danny Elfman: Wrote the score.
  • Dead Hand Shot: Jason's death.
  • Dead Star Walking: Michael J. Fox dies astonishingly early in the film without much fanfare, probably to let you know that the gloves are off. Danny DeVito also gets little screentime and meets his end pretty quickly.
  • Death by Irony: Art Land is crushed beneath his hotel's giant globe.
  • Defiant to the End: General Decker.
  • Denser and Wackier: While the original card series had moments of dark humor, the movie was entirely comedic with a lot less gore.
  • Despair Event Horizon: The President of the United States apparently crosses this line by the time he finally gives in to his General's request to fight back against the Martians using nuclear weapons. This is probably because his daughter has gone missing and his wife has been killed.
    • Barbara, after the Martians first attack. Early in the movie, she was convinced the Martians came to help the Earth. But later, in her sorrow she's gone back to drinking and believes humanity are being eradicated as punishment for destroying themselves.
  • Deus Ex Nukina: Parodied.
  • Dirty Coward: Billy-Glen, during the first Martian attack, quite stupidly charges at one with intent to kill it. He hit the magazine release by mistake. He then picks up an American flag and shouts "I surrender!" He dies anyway, but since no one heard what he actually said, he's honored as an American hero. This fuels his trailer trash parents' blatant favoritism of him over his less aggressive, smarter brother.
  • Disaster Movie: Played for Laughs.
  • Disintegrator Ray
  • Distinguished Gentleman's Pipe: Prof. Donald Kessler.
  • Disturbed Doves: Subverted.
  • Donut Mess with a Cop: Several cops were seen running out of a doughnut shop before it was destroyed.
  • The Dragon: The Martian Ambassador, wearing a red cloak. He leads the attack at the desert, blows up Congress, and even enters into fisticuffs with Byron at the end of the movie. He takes orders from the Martian Leader, wearing a purple cloak (and pictured above).
  • Dreadful Musician: See Brown Note above.
  • Dual Wielding: During the seige of the White House, a Martian is seen with two rifles just before being shot by a secret service agent. This allows the boys to grab his weapons and start shooting. A few moments later, a second Martian is briefly seen doing the same (see Stock Footage).
  • Dude, Where's My Respect?: Jason Stone can't comprehend his vapid girlfriend somehow managing to outdo him: her show was contacted before his with the news that the President was cutting into everyone's airtime, and later, Donald Kessler appears on her show to discuss the Martians. She's on a fashion show. Even Natalie's dog won't listen to him.
  • Dueling Movies: Came out the same year as Independence Day. It lost. In fact, their initial plan was to do Dinosaurs Attack!note , but they thought it would wind up being associated with Jurassic Park. Oops.
  • Easily Thwarted Alien Invasion: Yodeling. Making this the most absurd example ever. Crowning Moment of Funny and of Awesome. It's both great and hilarious.
  • Eenie, Meenie, Miny Moai: They make for good bowling pins.
  • Emergency Presidential Address: This is parodied in the President's address to the U.S. after the Martians destroy Congress, in which he assures the public that a "very real response" will be coming "soon".
  • Evil-Detecting Dog: The president's dog started barking as soon as he saw the Martians, before anyone besides the General realized that they were dangerous.
  • Exactly What It Says on the Tin: Mars attacks!
  • Executive Meddling: Averted. Burton was told he absolutely could not kill off Jack Nicholson's character, the President. So what does he do? He casts Nicholson in TWO roles and kills off both of them!
  • Exploited Immunity: When the Martians hear recordings of Slim Whitman singing "Indian Love Call" their heads explode. The humans take advantage of this to destroy them.
  • Expy: General Casey is one of Colin Powell (back in his roles prior to that for which he is most recently and well known).
  • Fainting: Natalie, upon Jason's death.
  • Falling Chandelier of Doom: How First Lady Marsha (Glenn Close) dies. It was her much-cherished Nancy Reagan chandelier, too.
  • Fat Idiot: Richie's brother and parents.
  • Fingore: Jerry's finger gets bitten off by the Martian girl. To add insult to injury, it lands in the fishtank and the fish nibble at it.
  • First Contact: Of the worst kind possible.
  • Flying Saucer: The Martians' spaceships. Even gets name-dropped.
  • For the Evulz: The Martians are not out to invade Earth, but destroy it because they seem to find it funny.
  • Friend to All Living Things: Unusually enough, Tom Jones.
  • Funny Background Event: Right after the Pahrump massacre, as the president and his advisors argue over what to do next, the First Daughter, for some reason, is grinning like an idiot, clearly loving the carnage.
  • Futile Hand Reach: Natalie and Jason reaching for each other in the massacre.
  • General Ripper: General Decker, who turns out to be absolutely right.
  • Granola Girl: Annette Bening's character.
  • Hand Signals: When the Martians invade the senior citizen center where Richie's grandmother is staying, one of them silently beckons a large Disintegrator Ray device forward so it can destroy her.
  • Helium Speech: The Martian leader. With an absorbed nuclear blast.
  • Hey, It's That Guy!: A side effect of the All-Star Cast.
  • Homage: To Earth vs. The Flying Saucers and Dr. Strangelove.
    • The final scene on the Capitol steps to the final scene in Star Wars Episode IV A New Hope. Becomes incredibly Hilarious in Hindsight because Natalie Portman went on to play Queen Amidala in the prequel trilogy, where she plays the same role in paying homage to the same scene.
  • Horrible Judge of Character: Almost all of the humans except General Decker when it comes to the Martians. They even fall for the Martian "apologies" multiple times.
  • Hot Scientist: Parodied by Pierce Brosnan's Donald.
  • Hot Scoop: Natalie, played by Sarah Jessica Parker.
  • Hugh Mann
  • Humans Are Diplomats: Humans try to make peace every chance they get, for all the good that does.
  • I Know Mortal Kombat: Kids practising rail shooter games give them a leg up when they happen upon some real ray guns from a fallen Martian warrior.
  • Ivy League For Everyone
  • Improvised Weapon User: Marsha Dale throws the skull of their dog at the alien assassin who infiltrated the White House, moments after the dog was killed.
  • Incredible Shrinking Man: The Martian emperor uses a shrink-ray on a general and squashes him.
  • Jerk Ass: Every single fucking Martian. And many humans, especially Danny DeVito's character, the President, and Barbara's husband (the last two played by Jack Nicholson). The president is perhaps simply clueless.
  • Jerk Ass Has A Point: General Decker was quite right to not trust the Martians, but this gets subverted when he pleads to use nuclear warheads that turn out to be useless. Fridge Logic comes into play when you realize, had the President listened to Decker and used the warheads much earlier, the Martians would've probably invaded much faster.
  • Juggling Loaded Guns: When a soldier runs screaming towards a rifle, points it at a Martian — and hits the magazine release. Possibly justified because said soldier is played by Jack Black.
  • Kill 'em All: Put it this way; out of the top nine cast members, Annette Bening is the only one who survives. Burton, told that he couldn't kill Nicholson's character, gave him two characters (Art Land and the President)... and killed both of them.
  • Large Ham: Danny DeVito's character. "Rooollexx!"
    • Glenn Close as First Lady Marsha Dale. "The Nancy Reagan chandelier!"
    • Jack Nicholson as Art Land too.
  • Last Kiss: Donald and Natalie.
  • Lighter and Softer: The movie was a Black Comedy but a comedy nonetheless. While the trading cards and comics had its moments, they were much darker, bloodier, and all around more serious.
  • Little Green Men
  • Little "No": The President after watching miniaturized General Decker being squashed under a Martian's foot.
  • London England Syndrome: In one scene Tom Jones comments that he saw another character box "...in Cardiff, Wales once". Jones, being a native Welshman, would probably just say "Cardiff" in real life. Surprising he didn't pick up on this one, really.
  • Losing Your Head: Donald and Natalie's heads are severed. Donald's survives in a jar on hanging wires. Natalie's is attached to the body of her chihuahua.
  • Lounge Lizard: Tom Jones sings "It's Not Unusual" over the ending, dressed in a stage get-up that wouldn't look out-of-place in Las Vegas.
  • Mix-and-Match Critters: Natalie's head is later put on her chihuahua's body (and vice versa).
  • Monumental Battle
  • Monumental Damage: Destroying Big Ben, bowling with Moai, carving their heads in Mount Rushmore, blowing up Congress, attempting to crush Boy Scouts with the Washington Monument...
    • A Real Life example behind the scenes: The Landmark Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas was being scheduled for implosion while the movie was being filmed. Burton, who was quite fond of the place, wanted to film its implosion and immortalize it by using it during the aliens' attack on Vegas. Special pyrotechnics were added to the implosion where special effects would be added in post. So when you see it being destroyed in the movie, it actually got destroyed.
  • Mood Motif: Parodied.
  • Ms. Fanservice: A Las Vegas showgirl follows the main characters while still wearing her stage outfit. She doesn't get many lines and seems to be there just to bounce around in a revealing outfit. She was the waitress Art Land was flirting with at the beginning of the film.
  • My Brain Is Big: The Martians.
  • Novelization: Written by the film's screenwriter, Jonathan Gems.
  • Nuke 'em: Attempted against the Martians, but fails massively. The Martians actually capture the explosive force of the nuke, and smoke it! They actually get high on radioactive explosives. This is both funny and badass. It gives them helium voices. Fridge Brilliance kicks in when you remember that nuclear fusion produces helium.
  • Oh Crap: Jack Black's character about to go Leeroy Jenkins on the Martians when the clip falls out of his gun.
    • The President when he hears that the French are about to negotiate a peace treaty with the Martians...or so they think.
  • Only Sane Man: Richie in a family of rednecks. Another reason why they don't like him, except his grandma.
  • Opposites Attract: Pierce Brosnan's brainy (if ridiculously utopian) scientist and Sarah Jessica Parker's airhead fashion show host.
  • Out of Focus: The President's daughter, after the White House attack. But came back to award Richie and his grandma.
  • Pistol-Whipping: During the annihilation of Congress, Donald Kessler is knocked out by a blow on the back of the head from the butt of a skeleton beam rifle wielded by a Martian soldier.
  • Poor Communication Kills
  • The Power of Rock: See Brown Note above.
  • Prop Recycling: Jeff Dunham fans, Achmed the Dead Terrorist's eyes are an old, spare pair of Martian eyes from this movie.
  • Punctuated! For! Emphasis!: "It's ME! Byron WILLIAMS! HEAVYWEIGHT! CHAMPION! OF THE WORLD!"
  • Raygun Gothic: The Martians' ships and equipment, including the rayguns.
  • Refuge in Audacity: The last shot of the film, in which Tom Jones apparently summons a bunch of woodland creatures like he was Snow White.
  • Roofless Renovation
  • Rule of Perception
  • Rushmore Refacement
  • Schizo Tech: 80's cell phones, 50-60's military hardware, etc, cars from the 70's-80's.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here!: A heroic example. Richie deciding to go save his grandmother Florence from the nursing home during the alien invasion. His parents tell him to forget about her and call her a nut and then criticize him again for not being like his dead brother, at which point Richie decides enough is enough and goes anyway, avoiding certain death.
  • Sedgwick Speech
  • Selective Obliviousness: Art Land selling the investors on building his casino while the Martians blow up real estate all around them.
    Art Land: Just five more minutes.
  • Shout-Out: Multiple examples, particularly to old alien invasion movies. Burton also adds a self-reference by including the fat clown killed by the Penguin in Batman Returns inside a UFO.
  • Stock Footage: Possibly in keeping with the traditions of B-movies, Burton reused footage here. The first example involves identical Martians dual weilding lasers before dying in the White House and the second involves the first invasion fleet which involves footage from the opening credits.
  • Stab The Salad
  • Stripped to the Bone: The effect of the Martian Disintegrator Ray. Colorized, too.
    • Possible Fridge Brilliance with the color effect: the Martians may be keeping score.
  • Stupid Scientist: The Scientist figures the Martians are peaceful. He was wrong.
  • Swiss Cheese Security: The underground Presidential hiding place.
  • Tap on the Head: Jerry Ross is knocked unconscious by a female Martian assassin when she hits him on the back of the head with a statuette.
    • It seems as though this blow kills him, as we never see or hear from him again afterwards.
  • They Plotted a Perfectly Good Waste: It's clear the unlikable characters and overall over-the-top nature were intentional.
  • Thoroughly Mistaken Identity: Grandma Norris, who calls both of her grandsons "Thomas".
  • Too Dumb to Live: Virtually all humans, who continue trusting the Martians after they've consistently vaporized their most important dignitaries.
  • Two out of Three Ain't Bad: Capitol Hill is vaporized early on, but at least the White House and the Supreme Court are okay....for the moment.
    Dale: "I want the people to know that they still have 2 out of 3 branches of the government working for them, and that ain't bad."
  • Unexpected Successor: The President's daughter, played by Natalie Portman.
  • Universal Translator: The humans build one before formally meeting the Martians. Subverted in that it doesn't really work (or the Martians are intentionally spouting gibberish half the time just for the fun of it).
  • The Unfavorite: Richie to the rest of his family, who dote on his older brother, Billy-Glen. The only exception to this is his grandmother. Both survive the end of the movie.
  • Violence is the Only Option
  • Viva Las Vegas: A washed-up boxer, a compulsive gambling lawyer, a huckster casino developer, copious showgirls and Tom Jones.
  • The War Room: And a really cool-looking one at that.
  • Weaksauce Weakness: See Brown Note above.
  • We Come in Peace Shoot to Kill
  • Who Names Their Kid "Dude"?: Natalie Portman's character, Taffy Dale.
  • Why Couldn't You Be Different?: Richie's parents make it blatantly clear that are very ashamed of him for not being like Billy-Glen.
  • Why We Can't Have Nice Things
  • The Worf Barrage: See Nuke 'em above.
  • Your Head A Splode: The Martians when they hear the Brown Note.

    Original Cards 

Tropes of the original cards:

  • Canon Immigrant: The Martian Spy Girl from the Tim Burton film is this as of the 2013 Invasion set- an Early Missions card depicts a version of the character.
  • Child Soldiers: The required age to join the army in defeating the Martians is 13 and up.
  • Deconstruction
  • Bowdlerized: The card series was planned to be repainted and reissued in order to meet moral standards at the time, but the project was cancelled after only 13 cards were redone.
  • Enemy Mine: Even the mafias and street gangs join in the battle against the Martians.
  • Earth-Shattering Kaboom
  • Fanservice: A few cards pictured martians carrying away scantly clad women.
  • Gorn: The cards' major selling point.
  • Make My Monster Grow: The Martians would use growth rays to make giant insects.
  • Mars Needs Women: It doesn't seem as though they need Earth women but they obviously take great interest in them anyway.
  • No Name Given: Averted. The warlike Martians are called Gnards and the peaceful, intellectual ones are called Paecs.
  • Keep Circulating the Tapes: The original series was discontinued prematurely, thus, original cards are rare and quite expensive.
  • Kick the Dog: Or rather, shoot the dog. One of the most iconic images of the series was a martian soldier randomly shooting a farm dog in front of its helpless owner. The image can be seen on the Aliens Are Bastards trope page.
  • Plot Tumor: The Martians vanish from the cards in favor of the giant insects around #20.
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge: Earth is burning, a majority of the human race is dead, and the survivors are still dealing with giant insect attacks. What is mankind's response? Why, take every available soldier, tank, and nuke on Earth, go to Mars on MASSIVE rocket ships, and tear every living thing on the planet limb from limb, before abandoning the planet right before the Earth-Shattering Kaboom.
  • Touch of the Monster: A few of the fanservicy cards displayed Martians carrying off scantly-clad women.
  • What Could Have Been: The gore and sexuality of the series was too much for Moral Guardians and the series was cancelled.

    Comic Series 

Tropes of the comic series:

  • Adaptation Expansion: The series had multiple story lines which expanded the universe beyond the original comic series.
  • Cold-Blooded Torture: The Martians vivisect their victims.
  • Cross Over: They had one with Image Comics. As far as Savage Dragon continuity goes, this crossover actually had major repercussions which is unusual in a crossover.
  • Cross Through: In January 2013 IDW had the Martians individually attack the Transformers, Popeye, The Real Ghostbustersnote , Zombies vs. Robots, and... KISS.
  • Channel Hop: The comic series was published by Topps who briefly had a comic line. It has since been revived by IDW.
  • Enemy Mine: You can thank the Martians for this one in "Mars Attacks the Transformers," where their actions cause the Autobots and Decepticons to team up against the little green aliens.
  • Lighter and Softer: Mars Attacks Popeye.
  • Shout-Out: Many of the images from the original cards were remade in the comics, including the aforementioned crossover with Image. The "Destroying A Dog" card was redrawn with Raphael from the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles in the background instead of the farm boy (the turtles were being published by Image at the time).
    • Also in this crossover, the Martians were defeated when the Savage Dragon invaded their planet, used a growth ray to become a giant, and destroyed Mars in a similar fashion to the original trading card ending. Keep in mind that the "Image Comics version" were from an Alternate Reality. The "real" Martians made a brief appearance to observe their counterparts, realized they were not able to fight super heroes, and left the universe.
    • The cover for IDW's Mars Attacks Classics Vol. 3 collection features what appears to be a human version of Applejack from My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, whose tie-in comic is also published by IDW.
  • Untouchable Until Tagged: Byron, fending off Martians until they mobbed him.
  • Villain Team-Up: You can thank the Sea Hag for this one in "Mars Attacks Popeye," where she immediately intercepts the Martians upon their landing and hypnotizes them into attacking Popeye for her instead of invading Earth. Then the spinach-powered beatdown breaks their hypnosis, and they betray her through Defeat by Modesty (It Makes Sense in Context) before leaving Earth out of a newfound fear of Popeye.

Magic: The GatheringCreator/IDW PublishingMy Little Pony
Independence DayHugo AwardContact
Man With A PlanFilms of the 1990sMary Reilly
Kraken and LeviathanImageSource/Tabletop GamesAlien Invasion

alternative title(s): Mars Attacks
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