Mars Attacks!

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Details At A Glance

Category Science Fiction Theatrical Trailer(s) Yes, 1
Rating Other Trailer(s) None
Year Released 1996 Commentary Tracks None
Running Time 102 minutes Other Extras Production Notes
Cast & Crew Biographies
Isolated Music Score
RSDL/Flipper No/No
Cast & Crew
Start Up Movie
Region 4 Director Tim Burton

Warner Brothers
Starring Jack Nicholson
Glenn Close
Annette Bening
Pierce Brosnan
Danny DeVito
Martin Short
Sarah Jessica Parker
Michael J. Fox
Rod Steiger
Tom Jones
Lukas Haas
Natalie Portman
Jim Brown
Lisa Marie
Sylvia Sydney
RRP $29.95 Music Danny Elfman

Pan & Scan/Full Frame No MPEG None
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Dolby Digital 5.1
16x9 Enhancement Yes Soundtrack Languages English (Dolby Digital 5.1)
Isolated Music Score (Dolby Digital 5.1)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio 2.35:1    
Macrovision Yes    
Subtitles English
English for the Hearing Impaired

Plot Synopsis

    See the strange and wondrous Martians! Hear their alien Martian language! Marvel at their superior technology! Laugh as every popular landmark across the globe gets what's coming to it! Guffaw as every stereotype from those beloved 50s Science Fiction B-movies gets dragged out and caricaturized mercilessly.

    Mars Attacks! is an hilarious tribute to 50s science fiction B-movies. Based around a set of playing cards that came out at about that time, it paints a picture of large brained, aggressive Martians whose goal is the conquest of Earth. Assembled to defeat them is a cornucopia of a weak president, a crooked tycoon, a mad general, an intelligent professor type, a mad scientist, an alcoholic, a new-ager, hippies, rednecks, and every other stereotypical character that you can think of. Add to this a plot which lampoons every corny plot device from these movie, and special effects which are first rate, and you have a recipe for a great 102 minutes of entertainment.

    The Martians, whilst appearing initially peaceful, are anything but, and the Earth is required to desperately defend itself from the invading Martians who are far superior technologically to the humans. An initially ineffective defence is met by the Martians' gleeful destruction of many well-known Earthly landmarks, but then Earth reveals its secret weapon. This is a weapon so powerful, and so devastating, that I cannot even begin to describe its sheer and absolute horror. The Martian super-soaker rapid-broiler weapon is left pale in comparison to Earth's secret weapon of mass Martian destruction.

    Mars Attacks! is wonderful, escapist entertainment, and has many excellent cameos by many well-known actors, ranging from Jack Nicholson as the US President and the Crooked Tycoon to Rod Steiger as the Mad Military Type to Lisa Marie as the exotic alien to Pierce Brosnan as the Intelligent Professor Type. It is well worth a watch, more so if you appreciate Tim Burton's sense of humour. You will be rewarded with larger-than-life aliens, larger-than-life explosions, larger-than-life colours, and larger-than-life comedy.

Transfer Quality


    The video transfer of this movie is generally quite good, albeit with a few minor problems.

    The transfer is presented at an aspect ratio of 2.35:1, 16x9 enhanced.

    The transfer was generally very sharp, except for the odd scenes here and there, especially towards the start of the movie, which were a little blurred. Shadow detail was generally fine, important for a movie which has many low lit sequences.

    The colours were vivid and vibrant throughout the transfer, a deliberate design decision on the part of the set designers. Early on, I noticed a small amount of colour bleeding, especially in big rich red fields, but this only happened occasionally. Otherwise, colours were well rendered.

    No MPEG artefacts were seen. Film-to-video artefacts consisted of reasonably frequent aliasing, more prominent in this transfer than I am used to seeing these days. The usual culprits were responsible; brick walls, venetian blinds, car grilles, and a moiré on one of the reporter's hats. Film artefacts were not particularly noticeable except for a few scratches here and there.


    There are two audio tracks to choose from on this DVD. The default is English Dolby Digital 5.1. This is the track that I listened to. The other track present is an Isolated Music Score in Dolby Digital 5.1.

    Dialogue was slightly muffled for a significant amount of time, making it a little hard to understand at times.

    The beginning of Chapter 4 was a little out of sync, with the audio lagging behind the video, but I had the opportunity to compare the Region 4 and the Region 1 disc, and they both exhibited the same problem, so it can be attributed to bad ADR. If not for these problems with the dialogue, this soundtrack would easily rate a reference rating, because it is superb in every other way.

    The music is a lavish orchestral score inspired by the often melodramatic scores that 50s Science Fiction movies were accompanied by. Like the rest of the movie, it is larger-than-life. It is virtually omnipresent, and helps enormously to create the overall feel of this movie. The music is aggressively mixed around the entire soundfield.

     The surround channels were frequently active, with frequent ambience, music, and lots and lots of special effects. The soundtrack was superbly enveloping, and was very effective at drawing you into the story. The surround mix is aggressive with many quite directional special effects.

    The .1 channel was used with great effect, mainly for the many huge explosions that the movie has. It gets a good workout with this soundtrack.


    There is a fair collection of extras on this disc, all of high quality.


    The menu design on the disc is excellent. It carries the overall theme of the movie, and is accompanied by an excerpt from the soundtrack. Alas, there is no animation. There is a little extra hidden in the soundtrack selection menu, which is labelled as Martian soundtrack which leads to a much smaller than hoped for extra, but a cute one nonetheless.

Theatrical Trailer

    The theatrical trailer is present on this disc, presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1, 16x9 enhanced, with a Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack, surround encoded. This appears to have been taken from a print source, but is acceptable nonetheless. I note that the Region 1 version of this DVD has two theatrical trailers.

Production Notes

    Extensive production notes are present on this disc which are quite informative about the background to the movie, and how it was written.

Cast & Crew Biographies

    Very extensive Cast & Crew Biographies round out the extras on this disc.


    Mars Attacks! is an excellent, entertaining movie with lots of over-the-top action and effects. It will give your home theatre system a good work out and will give you a great belly laugh.

    The video quality is generally good, with a few minor faults.

    The audio quality is generally excellent, with a superb enveloping presence, but slightly muffled dialogue causes a slight problem with this track.

    The extras are reasonably comprehensive and interesting.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Michael Demtschyna
16th January 1999

Review Equipment
DVD Pioneer DV-505, using S-Video output
Display Loewe Art-95 95cm direct view CRT in 16:9 mode, via the S-Video input. Calibrated with the NTSC DVD version of Video Essentials.
Audio Decoder Denon AVD-2000 Dolby Digital AddOn Decoder, used as a standalone processor. Calibrated with the NTSC DVD version of Video Essentials.
Amplification 2 x EA Playmaster 100W per channel stereo amplifiers for Left, Right, Left Rear and Right Rear; Philips 360 50W per channel stereo amplifier for Centre and Subwoofer
Speakers Philips S2000 speakers for Left, Right; Polk Audio CS-100 Centre Speaker; Apex AS-123 speakers for Left Rear and Right Rear; Yamaha B100-115SE subwoofer