I would be totally unfair, not to mention that this was a self financed film by the band FLAMING LIPS, and as such, is not benefitted by the mulitmillion dollar special effects budgets, top hollywood filmstars, famous directors and writers, and glamorous locales. However, if you believe a good film is something that REQUIRES all those components, then dont even watch CHRISTMAS ON MARS. You'd be confused, disappointed, and bored. However, if you loved CLERKS, for being a $30,000 self financed film, or ERAISERHEAD for Lynch's near 7 year effort to see it completed , or 200 MOTELS for being a rock band film that tried to be bizarre for its own artistic sake, then go ahead and buy this film. You'd enjoy it, even if you never HEARD of the Flaming Lips. Because this film rests on the D.I.Y concept behind Eraiserhead, Clerks and 200 Motels. You dont need to be graduate of Film school, to make a film. Just a lot of Moxie, and imagination, and this movie has plenty of both.
Actually, its safe to say that, like much of the LIPS music, the influences for the film are a strange combination of the surreal, the punk-adelic, and high concept "ART" music, or here, arty concept cinema. CHRISTMAS ON MARS takes a huge influence from Lynch, Krubrick's 2001 A SPACE ODYSSEY, as well as from no-budget scifi 60s films like SANTA CLAUS CONQUERS THE MARSIANS. The film's 2001 SPACE ODYSSEY parody gets underscored by everything from the SPACE BABY, to Steven Drozd's role of some type of psychologist,(HAL) observing an isolated space station, spouting philosophy and failed attempts to analyse his own, and the crews' hallucinations. (If you want a taste of the dialogue, just read ANY of the FLAMING LIPS liner notes on their albums, or Wayne's interviews about his work. Its filled with the same acid head philosophy, and dry, hippie-punk humor.) The movie is mostly in black and white. When it comes time to show us the alien, and how he travels thru space, its accomplished with cheap, tho well imagined, makeup and costumes, along with ultra psychedelic color saturated video effects, and LOUD freak out music. HALUCINATION becomes literal space travel for the Alien. These freak out TECHNICOLOR scenes, coupled with feedback electronics also represent the Mars space station workers hallucinations. The mind of the people, and the station, deteriorates, and only the space alien Santa, and the birth of a baby on Christmas Eve, can save the station. That's the plot, more or less. How much the Space Baby in 2001, or Eraserhead's baby, is a jumping off point for CHRISTMAS ON MARS, and how much is an homage to the meaning of Christmas, who can say? Does it matter? The film is too much fun on its own terms.
This XMAS SCIFI film succeeds for the same reasons good, low budget community theater succeeds. The imagination of the audience is required, to make the whole thing work. The FLAMING LIPS D.I.Y. punk esthetic allows the film to be successful on its own standards. This is why MAGICAL MYSTERY TOUR didnt work for the Beatles. They already had a very professional film esthetic developed, when they made a very experimental non professional film. It was not what people expected from the Beatles. This film, however, is exactly what you might expect from THE FLAMING LIPS. They have been working on it for 7 years, and many thought it would NEVER be released. If you enjoyed the way SCIFI comedy was approached by MYSTERY SCIENCE THEATER 3000, mixed with wierd band films like 200 MOTELS by Zappa, this film's "concept" will not be lost on you. The most funny, freaky "monster" in scifi history, has to be the space alien Santa Claus. The real monster is THE HALUCINATION BABY carried by some "genital headed" man in a space suit. It's not as scary as Lynch's ERAISERHEAD baby, but its at least as wierd. The SPACE BABY is the theme of the film. The obvious message of a "space" baby born on Christmas Eve, which might save humanity thru hope, is about as subtle as a brick to the head. But , its nice to be reminded of Humanitys need to have hope, and feel faith there's a meaning of the universe. Whats enigmatic, or at least confusing, is that there are TWO babies in the film. What the interaction is between the hallucination monster baby, and the SPACEBABY in the plastic bubble, born on Christmas Eve, who knows. Justaposistion of outer opjective reality and inner, psychic meaning may be part of this film's thematic continity.
Fans of the band will love the film, especially if they enjoy their "YOSHIMI" period. Beyond that, I think fans of experimental, low budget film with a freaky conceptual basis, would enjoy the film as well. Some of the sets have a sort of "FOUND ART" beauty in them. Visually, the film looks as tho a lot more money was spent on sets and scifi experimental gadgets, than was actually spent. If you liked the artwork for the YOSHIMI album, and CD singles, then you'll like the visual feel of this film. There's lot of extras on the DVD, including interviews with all the band members, and a nice segment where Wayne shows you his storyboards, and visual concepts, behind the development of this project. Personally, this is a film you either really like, or hate. I love SCIFI, i love the band's sound, and i love this type of "positive attitude" hipster philosophy, and i love the D.I.Y. look of the film, so I think the whole thing is great.