A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Not many good role models here.
Violence & Scariness
A herd of cattle is set on fire (digitally). A Martian death ray turns people into gruesome green skeletons, while other hapless citizens are crushed or impaled. There is a severed finger and a disembodied hand; captured humans (and one alien-autopsied Martian) are taken apart and reassembled in gruesome ways. Much shooting at the Martians (though seldom very effectively). Lots of explosions. Many characters die.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
The presidential press secretary is shown using the prestige of his office to pick up girls (two are prostitutes, one a nasty Martian in disguise). The Martian leader is shown perusing a magazine with a pin-up centerfold and getting some lascivious ideas. Non-graphic sex scene.
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Some strong language. Incomplete "f--k"s.
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Scientist smokes a pipe.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Mars Attacks! was based on a notorious series of trading cards that were censored for gruesomeness, and director Tim Burton doesn't hold back: abundant cartoony violence includes people being turned into skeletons by a death ray, vivisection (and whimsical re-assembly) of living humans, Martians' brains swelling and bursting, and cruelty to (computer-generated) animals. In addition the filmmakers have added some prostitutes to the blend. There is a subtle anti-authoritarian tone that kids have the smarts to save the world after all the annoying adults are wiped out. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
Director Tim Burton's dark sense of humor makes Mars Attacks! a must for the sort of young viewer who would rather read Famous Monsters of Filmland than Sports Illustrated. Remember "Sid," the twisted neighbor boy from Toy Story who liked to torture his playthings? This is his sort of alien-invasion film. Adults can enjoy it too, if they don't mind the subversive tone. But with an all-star cast and too many subplots, the movie threatens to turn into a collection of sketch-bits rather than a coherent whole.
Though the Martians are doubtlessly the villains here, you do get a sneaky anti-establishment message -- that the extraterrestrial holocaust will have a positive side effect of exterminating corrupt and worthless authority figures while sparing the cool kids and the few adults who listen to them.
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Our Editors Recommend
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