Tim Burton made two good movies, Pee Wee's Big Adventure and Ed Wood, before becoming a Hollywood hack and MOMA-celebrated artiste.
(The Nightmare Before Christmas somehow also makes its way into the Burton canon, despite being one of Henry Selick's best films.)
A web magazine, Collider, argues that Burton's 1996 film Mars Attacks "deserves more respect," since it's a "gleefully chaotic masterpiece." It's certainly chaotic.
"Mars Attacks," the 1960s trading cards, were mean-spirited and one could almost call them subversive, for the year they came out (1962). Burton's movie captured the bad vibes, but the humor in Mars Attacks, the movie, is self-consciously "hilarious" and "over the top" (and therefore not that funny).
In the trading cards the Martians weren't "just a bunch of dickheads," as Collider describes them in Burton's movie.
They were the conventional H.G. Wells baddies, cruel and callous in their treatment of humans. Eventually mankind (or at least the US Air Force) bands together and gives them some payback by blowing up Mars.
In Burton's film the usual small group of disadvantaged outsiders wins the day -- nothing subversive about that, it's the plot of every other Hollywood film. Subversive would be a group of US oligarchs in league with the Martians to provide a casus belli for "lockdowns" and other authoritarian interventions.
Even in 1962 the trading cards didn't lack precedent. Such shocking scenes of violence and mayhem abounded in the EC Comics of the 1950s, before the Comics Code clamped down.
There is actual pathos in these scenes, as well as dark humor, unlike Mars Attacks, the movie, where gruesome deaths play purely for yucks. As Collider says, "Burton’s movie feels like it was thrown together by cynical maniacs," and that wasn't intended as a criticism.
images from "the internet"