Story: Since Earth's overpopulation becomes a more and more pressing matter measures are taken in order to execute a terraforming project
on Mars. However, because of the new living conditions on Mars cockroaches have become a problem. Under these circumstances men can't live there in
the future. Thus, scientist Ko Honda (Shun Oguri) sends a group of fifteen mercenaries to Mars. They all did wrong in the past, among them Shokichi (Hideaki Ito)
who faces the death penalty as he took the blame for the murder committed by the girl Nanao (Emi Takei), who is also on board of the ship. Alongside the
fighter Jin (Tomohisa Yamashita) and scientist Ichiro (Takayuki Yamada), among others, they are ordered to eradicate all cockroaches on Mars. In return
they will get a pardon and a lot of money. However, when they arrive on Mars they have to face a completely different species. The cockroaches have mutated
and are of humanoid size and shape, are incredibly fast, extremely strong and very hard to kill. The task turns out to be a suicide mission. But in fact
every crew member has been genetically altered and can make use of an individual insect's power on his own. A fight for survival commences...
Review: "Terra Formars" has received a lot of criticism. Why... in fact eludes me. Seriously: You just need to have a look at the plot to
instantly know that this is supposed to be simple fun where you just have to check your brain at the door. Sure, it might be a guilty pleasure, but having
fun with some nonsense every now and then is quite ok, isn't it? Of course, it's true that the plot is extremely thin and the characters prove to be
onedimensional as well as many elements turning out to be just hinted at - at least this way we might start to get interested in the manga -, but why all
the hate because of that? Maybe, as is the case often enough, it's that the movie can't live up to the manga series? If that's the case I have to exlude
myself from the discussion, because I can't compare this nonsense but fun ride with the original material.
Moreover, you should be aware that you are getting a sci-fi movie here only in the broadest sense. It gets quite obvious very soon that this is more of a
superhero movie. After all, our heroes all have special powers and brawl their way through heaps of cockroaches. Unfortunately, here the movie's short
running time comes into play. Many characters die off right from the start without us getting to see any of their powers and this aside those individuals are
also very simply drawn. Only Shokichi, played by Hideaki Ito ("Lesson of the Evil"), and Ichiro, embodied by Takayuki
Yamada ("Monsterz") get a background story, but even that one remains roughly sketched at best. But you surely don't expect
any side plots with a movie like this, do you?
It's true, though, that this creates disinterest in the different personalities. Who lives and dies doesn't matter to us, which becomes particularly
apparent in some of the more dramatic scenes. Apart from that the movie's tone also irritates a bit. All in all things remain quite serious and director
Takashi Miike ("As the Gods Will", "Yakuza Apocalypse") is known for his rather
violent scenes, whereas some of the astronauts need to die in gruesome ways here as well, but every now and then a strange kind of humor wells up in the
movie, which particularly manifests in villain Ko Honda, played by Shun Ogiri ("Crows Zero"). Some of the more problematic,
because racist or glorifying (or maybe socio-critical in its core?) elements of the original have been damped down a lot, yet there are still a few
questionable scenes to be found which aren't necessarily to be considered funny.
Next to those odd slapstick moments there are also additional aspects which will clearly make you realize that the source material was a manga and that
some stories are just better told in that medium. The transformation into certain insects are commented by a narrator and even though the make-up may not
be bad per se, it still has something B-movie like to it and sometimes even reminds us a bit of "Power Rangers". However, I don't want to create the
impression that the special effects are ridiculous. No, they serve their purpose, but those kind of special effects just don't work in an action movie
which takes itself serious. Maybe it wouldn't have been so wrong if the movie had focused more on the humor and hadn't taken itself so serious. But then again
fans of the original naturally wouldn't have been content with that either.
Of course, you can see that the movie has mainly been shot in front of a green screen, but the atmosphere on Mars is well captured with the nice color palette at display. Furthermore, the computer-generated cockroaches don't look that bad either. That's where I can't understand most critics. "Terra Formars" without a doubt didn't have a big budget and this considered the effects surely don't need to hide from better movies. Only when too many Martians are on screen at the same time they start to look cheap. But the action is fun, even though it gets repititive at some point. A few twists have also been implemented into the story so that there isn't really any boredom creeping in, but this doesn't conceal the countless plot holes. So the question remaining in the end is who "Terra Formars" can be recommended to. A tough one. Probably not to fans of the manga and this isn't one of Takashi Miike's best works either. But somehow the film is fun, too, if you are willing to engage into this kind of nonsense.