With the space program attempting to travel to Mars, scientists were tasked with warming up the planet so that humans could survive. They came up with a plan of sending cockroaches and moss to the surface so that the moss would absorb sunlight and the insects would serve as food for the moss. Now, a manned ship to Mars has landed and the crew members are ready for their mission: to exterminate the roaches. But what they find instead are giant, mutated, humanoid cockroaches! Director Takashi Miike is known for having worked in a wide range of genres, from crime to horror to musical and superhero films. Among his best known work is "Audition" and "Ichi the Killer", though he has also become notorious for his banned contribution to "Masters of Horror" and the outrageously over-the-top "Visitor Q". Although far from retired, it seems appropriate that Fantasia is honoring Miike with a lifetime achievement award, and as part of that he is presenting his latest film, "Terraformars". The story is based on a manga, as well as a short-lived TV show, with a script by Kazuki Nakashima. Not being familiar with either of the earlier incarnations, I cannot comment on how faithfully Nakashima and Miike follow the source material or what new twists they may have added. So let's just look at the film as if it were a stand-alone feature. The concept is interesting, and the idea of space exploration is taken seriously. Whether this is "hard " science fiction is open to debate, but the writer clearly thought about the reality of what it would take to make Mars habitable for oxygen-breathing humans and how to increase the planet's temperature naturally. The methods proposed do, in fact, seem plausible assuming the melted ice caps could provide enough water. Now, of course, the science goes out the window after the initial premise, but that's another story. The cityscapes and "flying cars" of Earth are very reminiscent of "Blade Runner", with the neon lights everywhere and the dark, dirty overcrowding. Unlike "Blade Runner", however, this film is wisely set in the 2500s rather than a few decades after the date of the film itself. (If "Blade Runner" was right, we would already have the Nexus 6 by now.) One could compare some of it to "Starship Troopers" because of the "bad guys" being insects, but the similarities are only superficial. The film features beautiful color schemes, especially on the Mars landscape, which contrasts wonderfully with the glaring, garish neon of Earth. While the aliens (or what-have-you) don't look awful, they don't look great, either. Little attempt was made to hide the fact they are, graphics-wise, little better than something you might see in the latest video game. This is still worlds better than what you'll usually find on the SyFy Channel, but the CGI gets noticeably worse the more roaches are shown at one time. Someone either did not put the time or the money into making this everything it could be. (Exactly how the roaches have evolved into what they have become is less than convincing, bit that is a whole other issue.) After 20 minutes, the plot goes wildly different from anything we have come to expect. We have less of "The Martian" and the video game comparison becomes more apt. Without giving too much away, the story becomes more like a superhero action film, like a live-action version of "Tekken" or "Soul Caliber", though with an insect theme and a Mars setting. For me, the wonderful set up quickly started to deteriorate at this point. (But again, not knowing the original manga, this might be very appealing to viewers who know what's coming.) "Terraformars" is far from Miike's best work, and far from the best that Fantasia 2016 has to offer. What transpires over approximately two hours is good fun if you turn your brain off and maybe enjoy a few potent libations first (Sapporo, perhaps?). But more discerning viewers who want substance and are sick of the downhill curve that CGI has been taking over the last decade or more this is not the film for you.
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In an attempt to colonize Mars, 21st century scientists seed the planet with algae to absorb sun light and purify the atmosphere, and cockroaches who in turn spread the algae as they feed. ...
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April 16, 2019