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*
Do not confuse the below examples of Natalie the character with her
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.
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 army general.
Big "Shut Up!": The President, when General Decker tries to get him to order a nuclear strike on the Martians.
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.
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 unhuman way: She walks like she's rolling on wheels, and has a very disturbing left-right arm motion while doing so.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
For the Evulz: The Martians are not out to invade Earth, but destroy it because they seem to find it funny.
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.
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.
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: Nearly all of the all-star cast is killed off throughout the movie; only a few of the lesser-known ones at the time survive. Burton, told that he couldn't kill Nicholson's character, gave him two characters (Art Land and the President)... and killed both of them.
'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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Touch of the Monster: A few of the fanservicy cards displayed Martians carrying off scantly-clad women.
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.
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.