Terra Formars Blu-ray Review: Miike Can Do Better

Japanese director Takashi Miike is probably best known for his ultra-violent splatter films like Ichi the Killer and Audition. Or perhaps for his deviant, bizarre films such as Visitor Q (featuring incest, rape, and something known as lactation sex) or MPD Psycho (about a detective with multiple-personality disorder working on a case in which the killer makes flower pots out of severed heads). But with over 100 films to his name, he’s made films in nearly every genre including westerns, samurai flicks, and even a family film or two. Not all of them are great, in fact quite a few of them are pretty terrible, but he’s certainly made a name for himself. With Terra Formars, he dips his hand in the science fiction/fantasy genre with poor results.

Based on the manga of the same name, Terra Formars takes place in the distant future where scientists have tried to solve the overpopulation problem by terraforming Mars. Some 500 years prior, they sent up a bunch of moss which was supposed to create a suitable atmosphere and help warm the surface temperature to a more hospitable degree. Along with the moss, they sent cockroaches to the red planet because their scurrying will help spread the moss across the planet.

An expedition team made up of killers, terrorists, and other criminals is sent to Mars to kill the cockroaches and earn their freedom. Upon arriving, they find that the cockroaches’ evolution has been accelerated by the Martian atmosphere and now they are giant, anthropomorphic, club-wielding bugs (that look like a cross between the Tick and Buzz Lightyear) bent on exterminating all humans. The humans then learn that they secretly had their DNA altered with various bug juice and now when they receive an injection, they will turn into super human/bug hybrids which should help them defeat the deadly cockroaches.

The group was recruited by an eccentric billionaire (Shun Oguri) who wears wild clothes (and constantly asks everyone how they like his new jacket), prances about his lair, and generally acts like an asshole with a secret. Of course, he does have a secret. He neglected to tell anybody about the transmorphed cockroaches or the DNA tampering. He doesn’t even bother to tell any of them until at least a couple of recruits are dead. Which seems like a really stupid idea if your plan is to have them kill the cockroaches. But maybe that’s not the plan afterall. I won’t spoil this ridiculous movie but I will say there are a couple of twists that are meant to be surprisingly but just feel like lazy writing.

This is all just as stupid as it sounds.

Miike films it like a video game. It is loaded with poorly constructed, CGI-laden action sequences interspersed with just enough character development to help you differentiate betwen the various people. When each character injects themselves with the bug juice, we get little cut scenes informing us of which insect they are morphing into and what powers that will give them. It might actually be a pretty fun game to play, but it is a terrible movie. The characters are two dimensional, the action boring and the story a garbled mess. There is something of an underlying message about the underclass not being treated like insects but it’s so poorly executed that there is no reason to care.

Arrow Video presents it with a 1080p transfer with an aspect ratio of 2.35:1. Extras include interviews and outtakes and a feature-length documentary on the making of the film. Plus, the usual trailers, image galleries, and full-color booklet with essay.

Takashi Miike is an inventive, imaginative filmmaker who, when at the top of his game, makes really fascinating films. He is also insanely prolific, making multiple movies per year, which means that not every movie is a gem. Terra Formars certainly isn’t. It might be fun for teenagers raised on video games, but otherwise I suggest skipping this one.

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Mat Brewster

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