Tag Archives: Dazed

25 years on, Mars Attacks! is the ultimate Main Character Syndrome comedy

When re-evaluating critical or commercial disappointments, it can happen that artists’ work goes underappreciated because of trends and tastes at the time of its original release, only for the film, album, or artwork to age like fine wine as the world changes its sensibilities. Case in point: Tim Burton’s gleefully chaotic Mars Attacks!, in which humanity at large is incredibly stupid and short-sighted in the face of a potential extinction-level event. Sound familiar?

Mars Attacks! opened to largely middling reviews in December 1996 and commercially bombing domestically. It was unfairly and unfavourably compared by many to Independence Day. The two projects have little in common beyond alien invasion plots, big ensembles, and the same year of release. Independence Day had opened five months earlier, becoming one of the highest-grossing films of all time. It was a no-win situation for Mars Attacks! opening that Christmas season, coming across like a rushed, snarky response to its supposed counterpart film, despite the established (and then still fresh) brand of Burton and a much more star-studded cast…

Full feature for Dazed

20 years on, Josie and the Pussycats is a meta, zany pop time capsule

Time has been kind to Josie and the Pussycats. Long before the fictional rock band featured in TV’s Riverdale, their Archie Comics source material was brought to the big screen in 2001. Writer-director duo Harry Elfont and Deborah Kaplan (Can’t Hardly Wait) were at the helm, with Rachael Leigh Cook, Rosario Dawson and Tara Reid cast as band members Josie, Valerie and Melody, respectively, and the glorious scenery-chewing pair of Parker Posey and Alan Cumming as antagonists. But there was a twist.

While operating perfectly well as a sincerely heartfelt tale of friendship in the face of growing fame, the film is also a feature-length jab at the industries behind its existence, skewering consumerism, subliminal advertising, and the very notion of adapting a comic into a movie. Josie is an indelible early 2001 time capsule, but it also feels of a piece with the later meta stylings of Phil Lord and Chris Miller, whose 21 Jump Street and The LEGO Movie also walk a fine line between enthusiastic adaptation of an intellectual property and more cynically questioning their very existence. Comparing it to closer contemporaries, it’s something like Spice World meets Zoolander

Full feature for Dazed