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Terra Formars - Movie Poster
Original Title:
Terafomazu

Japan 2016

Genre:
Action, Sci-Fi

Director:
Takashi Miike

Cast:
Hideaki Ito
Tomohisa Yamashita
Takayuki Yamada
Shun Oguri
Emi Takei
Eiko Koike
Rinko Kikuchi
Masaya Kato
Kane Kosugi
Kenichi Takito
Mariko Shinoda
Rina Ohta


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Terra Formars

Terra Formars - Film Screenshot 1

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...

Terra Formars - Film Screenshot 2 Terra Formars - Film Screenshot 3
Terra Formars - Film Screenshot 4

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.

Terra Formars - Film Screenshot 5

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?

Terra Formars - Film Screenshot 6

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.

Terra Formars - Film Screenshot 7

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.

Terra Formars - Film Screenshot 8 Terra Formars - Film Screenshot 9

Terra Formars - Film Screenshot 10

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.

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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