directed by Takashi Miike
starring Rinko Kikuchi, Rila Fukushima, Shun Oguri
Here’s a high concept Japanese sci-fi packed with B-movie goodness. Earth decided to transform Mars by shipping a gazillion cockroaches over and leaving them alone. It takes 500 years, but now the planet is livable, and a crew of sci-fi misfits go to the red planet for a little genocide and a chance to clear their sullied past. Their mission: clean up the roaches and make the place presentable for real estate agents and other lower life forms. These misfits come from a dial-a- character machine: you’ve got your ex-Yazaki thug who looks like Lenny from Laverne and Shirley, an ex-cop with a reputation, a serial killer without one, the manager of a child prostitution ring and a radical terrorist. Oh, and kick boxer who laments: “I’m just a kick boxer. Apparently, we are lower than criminals…” All these cardboard cutouts sport nice hairdos and all wear vaguely suggestive space suits; plastic boobs for the gals and cheap codpieces for the guys. We spend a while setting up the conflict, and when we get to Mars, we meet the mutants: Human sized cockroach that look almost exactly like The Tick, only painted a poop brown.
There’s plenty of on-stage conflict, and number of apparently significant characters die early. But each of the remaining oddballs have insect D.N.A. spliced into them, giving each oddly specific super powers that just happen to bridge plot holes needed to wrap this cartoon up. When they land, they damaged their space ship and must make a mad dash though cockroach tsunamis to reach another escape craft. In the end, a few escape with their lives. You sort of dread a sequel, just as you world a roach running across your sandwich.
This film comes from a wildly popular manga series, and this movie sets out to cash in. Overall, we have a fun romp with wonderfully laughable dialog, even if the roaches gross you out. It’s flashy and the sets all look like a Japanese Blade Runner. There’s even a hologram boss who appears to give orders and dole plot points, He has one of those early Duran Duran haircuts, and while he claims fashion sense, he looks like an MTV video reject. Supporting this film we have an excellent documentary on the making of the movie. We see how the effects are created, interview the cast, and learn this was a highly regarded project actors loved working on, except for the uncomfortable costumes. Terraform Mars repackages a popular product with high production values and low-brow comedy. If you only see one magna-based foreign film this year, you could do worse than this spectacle.