'Christmas on Mars' Review

Originally published in the OCCC Pioneer.

It’s not exactly a new idea for a rock band to get involved in film making. The Who had “Tommy,” Led Zeppelin made “The Song Remains the Same,” Pink Floyd created “The Wall” and now the Flaming Lips have released “Christmas on Mars.” But the Lips haven’t created any sort of rock opera, instead they’re first feature film is an almost David Lynch-like space epic that has nothing to do with their actual music.

Overall, “Christmas on Mars” is exactly what one would expect a Flaming Lips movie to be. It’s weird, funny, crazy and a bit disturbing, but it’s all capped off with intense emotion and poignancy.

“Christmas on Mars” tells the story of an isolated human colony on Mars and it’s inhabitant’s varying degrees of mental degradation. The group is dealing with the first human baby to be born on Mars as well as the arrival of a strange alien lifeform.

As interesting as the story is, it’s never really the main focus of the film. It often takes a back seat to strange vibe and atmosphere created. The film less about telling a cohesive story and more about letting the audience interpret the often bizarre images shown on screen for themselves.

The film was mostly shot in grainy black and white, with flashes of color used for effect. It was filmed mostly in warehouses in and around Oklahoma City, and the sets were clearly homemade.

The space station seems to have been made up of Styrofoam, PVC pipe and various other household objects.

The cheap, do-it-yourself feel of the film would be laughable in most sci-fi films, but here it just adds the charm and overall mood of the film.

The film begins with a brief interview with Coyne. He explains why he wanted to create such a film and why it took so long to produce.

The interview is followed by a short list of instructions for the audience that includes things like “applaud,” “laugh,” “have sex,” and “smoke pot.” The Flaming Lips’ charm is in full effect during both of these segments.

The cast is a mix of Lips band members, friends and professional actors. The lead is played by Lips’ drummer Steven Drozd, who does a solid job considering he’s never acted before. Front man Wayne Coyne plays the alien, and creates an instantly likable and endearing character.

Actors include Adam Goldberg and “Saturday Night Live” alum Fred Armisen, who give the film a certain sense of credibility. Goldberg’s scene in particular is one of the more memorable moments in the film.

The rest of the cast range from okay to terrible, but never really affect the film as whole. Bad acting is somehow excusable when it comes to a project like this. The band first began work on “Christmas on Mars” 2001, filming bits and pieces between tours and recording sessions. During the film’s seven year production, fans often wondered if the film would ever see a release.

“Christmas on Mars” made it’s official premiere at the Sasquatch Music Festival last month. The band will be taking the film to various other music and film festivals throughout the summer.

The Oklahoma City premiere of the film took place June 13 as part of the DEADcenter Film Festival.

The film was screened inside of a massive circus tent, instead of a typical movie theater. Ordinarily this wouldn’t have made much of a difference while watching the movie, but the massive storms that night made the screening a unique event.

Thunder was heard, lightning could be seen though gaps in the tent, and rain soaked through ground turning everything inside into a muddy mess. And one couldn’t help but worry about the massive metal poles holding the tent in place getting struck by lightning.

The Lips were present to oversee the proceedings. Before the start of the film, Coyne announced to the crowd they may have to stop the film if the storm got too bad.