The movie Mars Attacks was on television a few nights ago. Both my wife and I had already seen it before, though separately. On this recent night she decided to re-watch most of the movie. I only came by a few times to catch some favorite scenes. (I’m not really that fond of Mars Attacks, but it does have a chuckle or two. And who can resist Jack Nicholson, in anything? I sure can’t.)
Toward the end, we were discussing the things we liked about the movie, when she surprised me. She listed: “the chihuahua head on Sara Jessica Parker’s body, the ever-cheezy Tom Jones, the malfunctioning translator…”
The what? The malfunctioning translator. You know, the Martian-language translation device that Pierce Brosnan’s character provides near the beginning of the film — which is what allows everyone (including us, the audience) to understand what the Martians are saying in their odd, otherwise unintelligible “ack-ack” tongue.
Now, I had always imagined right from the beginning that the translator was working as it’s supposed to, but that the Martians were just blatantly lying. Do not run away. We are your friends. We come in peace. ZZZZHAP! But my wife’s understanding is that the Martians were really saying exactly what they were about, and that instead the translator was botched, rendering their belligerent speech mistakenly as pleas for friendship.
So which is it? Were the Martians lying, or was the translator mistranslating?
(For the record, I think my hypothesis is the funnier one. I would also say it’s the more plausible one — but then I remember the movie I’m talking about, and realize that plausibility isn’t a consideration.)