Blast off for Mars with Santa and a pair of Earth kids! Science-Fun-Fiction at its height!
After centuries of machine-induced learning and suppression of any frivolous thoughts, the children of Mars (at least the only two we ever see) are becoming zombies. Acting on the advice of their 800 year old sage, the adult Martians set out to kidnap Santa Claus from Earth and bring him to their planet so Martian children can experience the joys of childhood. Complications arise when, along with Santa, the Martians are forced to take captive two Earth children who witnessed their arrival. The eeevil Martian Voldar, who fears the results of introducing fun into Martian society, makes a number of attempts to murder Santa and the kids, but is easily thwarted by a bit of the old Kris Kringle magic. All is not well, however, as Santa learns his captors plan to keep him on Mars... forever (ever...ever...ever). And Christmas is just a few days away! With the precious seconds ticking away, the right jolly old elf must find a way to vanquish Voldar for good, ensure happiness for the Martian children, and get back to Earth in time to make his Christmas Eve run.
No one would have believed in the middle years of the twentieth century that this world was being watched keenly and closely by intelligences at least one or two points greater than man's and yet as obviously confused as his own. No one gave a thought to the older worlds of space as sources of human danger, because, what with all our telescopes and whatnot, we would have spotted people on Mars years ago. Yet across the gulf of space, intellects vast and cool and devoid of fashion sense, regarded this earth with envious eyes, and slowly and surely drew their plans against us. Those plans were, of course, to steal Santa Claus.
What, you were expecting an invasion of indestructible tripods or something? Not from these Martians, folks. This is a society which is capable of direct insertion of knowledge into the brain, and yet they still sit around all day and watch television programming... even if they have to get it from another planet. This is a society capable of interstellar travel, and yet they still need to place big signs on the machinery of their spacecraft in order to explain its function... signs written in Earth English no less. This is a society which ultimately approves of Dropo as an acceptable replacement for Santa Claus; Dropo, a mentally impaired Joe Besser wannabe already singled out as the laziest man on Mars. This is a society which has invented the Tickle Ray... for what purposes I don't even want to know. When you get right down to it, the society of Mars as depicted in this movie is basically Idiocracy, except with really, REALLY stupid people.
It's the only explanation for the decisions they make regarding their children. That, or they just plain hate them. And it's not just the whole hooking them up to a machine to learn thing. (We've already started doing that on Earth with the Internet.) Nor is it the replacement of chocolate cake with flavored food pellets. (Dippin' Dots anyone?) And it's probably not even the lack of proper physical affection. (The Martian equivalent of a hug goodnight is apparently a head-butt.) No, these things are just symptoms of the main problem which is, bluntly stated, that Martians plain suck at being parents.
You get your first hint of this at the very beginning of the film when the camera pans back from a news report on Santa to show Girmar and Bomar (Girl Martian and Boy Martian? That's you're script, folks.) watching the show on Mars. Their father Kimar expresses his dissatisfaction over his children watching these Earth shows, but not once does he simply reach over and cut the TV off. What's the deal? These guys can sick a killer robot on Santa and callously blast Mrs. Claus and the elves with paralysis rifles, but they're afraid to tell their own kids to change the channel? Even if they don't want to confront the kids directly, the Martians demonstrate radar blocking technology (at least that's what the big sign on the machine says it does), you would think they could at least come up with parental blocks to filter out objectionable content on television. But no, they just let the kids keep sitting in front of the tube watching programming which is obviously detrimental to their mental well-being.
This monumental lack of display of parental authority is immediately followed up by some, shall we say, questionable role modeling. Rather than addressing the situation by spending some time with their children and working out a meaningful solution, the Martian adults (even their so-called wise man) decide to throw toys at the problem. They even go so far as to kidnap an old man and force him into slave labor just to make them. Now that's parenting!
The kids aren't buying it, however. After about a hour of this kind of nonsense in which the children are force fed Santa as a solution to their depression, all the while being constantly badgered to laugh at increasingly unfunny jokes and puns (This is no exaggeration. Watch this video [if you dare] to see every laugh in the movie condensed into a three minute video and you'll see what I mean.), the kids have had enough. In a scene which could easily be set to the strains of Twisted Sister's "We're Not Gonna Take It!", Santa arms the children with toys and lets them loose in an effort to subdue Volmar. It's a scene full of quick cuts and lots of movement, but through the magic of DVD single-frame advance you can see what's actually going on. In short, these kids go (to borrow a term from our pal Father Erik over at Orthometer) batshit crazy as years of frustration are poured out onto an unsuspecting Volmar. Look at the picture at the top of this post and tell me I'm lying.
A 2006 study entitled "Parents and Peers in Relation to Early Adolescent Problem Behavior" found that "the correlation between inadequate parenting control was more strongly associated with youths' internalizing problems (e.g. depression and unhappiness) than with externalizing problems (e.g. antisocial behavior)." And we see that somber disposition in the Martian children juxtaposed with wishy-washy parents right from the very beginning of the film. Oh sure, having just beaten Volmar into a near pulp, the kids are all smiles at the end of the movie. But for how long? The spastic nightmare that is Dropo Claus is ultimately no substitute for a strong and involved father.
"The fecundity of conjugal love cannot be reduced solely to the procreation of children" claims the Catechism, "but must extend to their moral education and their spiritual formation... Authority, stability, and a life of relationships within the family constitute the foundations for freedom, security, and fraternity within society." Everything starts at home. And with the family holding such a place of importance, it's only fitting that immediately following the celebration of the birth of Christ, we are asked to contemplate our individual roles as members of a family. With the occasional exception, the first Sunday after Christmas is set aside by the Church for the celebration of the Feast of the Holy Family. As Rev. Bernard Strasser, O.S.B. explains, "The general breakdown of the family... at the end of the past century and at the beginning of our own, prompted the popes, especially the far-sighted Leo XIII, to promote the observance of this feast with the hope that it might instill into Christian families something of the faithful love and the devoted attachment that characterize the family of Nazareth. The primary purpose of the Church in instituting and promoting this feast is to present the Holy Family as the model and exemplar of all Christian families."
That seems like a tall order, asking us to contemplate on how to mold our families into a version of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. But I invite you again to take a look at the picture at the top of this blog and contemplate on just what could happen if we don't.
"In the Gospel we do not find speeches on the family but an event that is worth more than any word: God willed to be born and to grow up in a human family. In this way, He has consecrated the family as the first and ordinary way of His encounter with humanity." - Pope Benedict XVI speaking on the Feast of the Holy Family in 2006.