Sunday, April 07, 2019

Review: Terraformars (2016)

What to make of this new science fiction film from Takashi Miike ... First of all, it's based on a Manga series of the same name, and I think this shows in the structure of the piece. Although there is a loose plot, it's pretty simple, which means that the film should stand and fall on its characters, however they are many, and hard to get attached to.

If one took a film similar in idea: Alien, then you hopefully see what I mean about the characters needing to be three dimensional. In Alien, a group of humans arrive on a planet only to find that it is home to a life form which wants to wipe them out. Moreover, one of their number is actually planning to bring said life form back to Earth ... and as such Terra Formars plays out in similar fashion, but without the three dimensional characters or the cool monster at its heart.

What I can see in Terra Formars are echoes of a great many films/TV, all of which did this sort of thing much better. There's Alien as mentioned, but also Blade Runner (the opening could almost be from that film), Starship Troopers with the idea of humans trying to wipe bugs from the face of a planet, there's Transformers and Power Rangers in the strange idea that in order for the humans here to succeed, they must be able to change themselves via injections of some mystery DNA potion into hybrid bugs themselves ... thus we have a chap who can blow flames from his mouth, a girl who can extrude silk, another girl who can implant 'herself' into the brains of others to control them, and a chap with giant hornet stings on his hands ... plus many others.

The idea is that Mars was pre-populated with lichen and with cockroaches, and over years the roaches have developed intelligence and to walk on two legs, and to be seven or eight feet tall!  Thus a group of hand picked humans (criminals mostly it seems) are sent to clear them out.

There's a fair bit of misogyny in the film as most of the female characters are summarily beheaded by the roaches without a thought, while the male characters battle on. There's no mourning, just moving on with the action, and while some of the male characters are killed, it all seems a soulless process. All driven by some fashionista back on Earth who has an ulterior motive which, again, I can't recall what it was ...

There's also a peculiarity that often the film looks and feels like it's an animation (an Anime of the Manga) and I think this is as a result of the extensive CGI which is used. Everything from backgrounds to spaceships to the roaches, to the transformation of the humans ... nothing seems actually 'real' here. It looks as though the human cast have also been airbrushed and treated to make them seem more 'animated'.

This is not a great film, and it suffers from a degree of slowness in the earlier stages, and then repetition in the later acts. The characters are instantly generic and forgettable (I didn't come away with the name of a single one of them), and, just as with Power Rangers/Transformers once you have seen the transformation into a hybrid the first time, it starts to drag with each successive time: a collage of the real insect and information about its particular 'powers' against CGI of the film character growing antennae or mantis-arms or whatever.

Ultimately, I came away wondering what I had just watched, and I'm unfortunately unlikely to want to revisit it.


Distributor: Arrow Video
Release date: 1st April, 2019                                

• High-Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation
• Original uncompressed Stereo and 5.1 DTS-HD MA options
• Newly-translated English subtitles
• The Making of Terra Formars - feature-length documentary on the film’s production featuring a host of cast and crew interviews and behind-the-scenes footage
• Extended cast interviews
• Footage from the 2016 Japanese premiere
• Outtakes
• Image Gallery
• Theatrical and teaser trailers
• Reversible sleeve featuring two artwork options

FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Fully illustrated collector’s booklet with new writing on the film by Tom Mes

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