By the time Tim Burton came to making Mars Attacks he was (rightly) pretty darned famous, which explains the cast he could get at the height of his powers:
Between 1988 and 1993, Burton made a string of classics: Beetlejuice, Edward Scissorhands, Batman, and The Nightmare Before Christmas. So it was no surprise that some of the era’s biggest celebrities had lined up to make what is arguably the director’s weirdest and most divisive movie:****Mars Attacks!
“It was a strange and fun movie to make,” Burton tells Inverse.
_Mars Attacks!_stars Jack Nicholson and Glenn Close as the President and First Lady. The disaster-film pastiche also features Natalie Portman, Jack Black, Annette Bening, Pierce Brosnan, Michael J. Fox, Sarah Jessica Parker, Lukas Haas, Martin Short, Danny DeVito, and Tom Jones dancing in a desert with a bird of prey on his wrist.
Do not forget Tom Jones. None of us who watched it could. And the above list of successes omits Batman Returns, which may have been messy but it was the sort of mess that modern superhero films aren't permitted to be. Also, it gave the world Michelle Pfeiffer's take on Catwoman, which was vastly better than what Halle Berry brought us a decade or so later.
For my money the good bits in Mars Attacks! were well up to the mark - the dogs with human heads attached, apparently just because the invading Martians could do that; the ineptitude of Jack Black's GI trying to respond to the Martians opening fire; the Martians carefully toying with major US landmarks before knocking them over - and even the jokes that didn't quite come off were quickly overtaken by the next visual joke that did work. That was one very fun film, even if US audiences didn't quite see the joke.
Even after his remake of Planet Of The Apes five years later - a woeful mismatch of director and material, for my money - we still see the odd flash of the old Tim Burton in projects like Big Fish and Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children. Unfortunately, all we can rely on Tim Burton for nowadays is his unreliable touch when it comes to choosing projects. (That, and we can rely on Burton trying to employ Johnny Depp as an actor long after that was a good bet.)
It'd be great to have the old Tim Burton back again someday. We've missed him.