Terra Formars

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colinr0380
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Terra Formars

#1 Post by colinr0380 » Fri Feb 22, 2019 3:48 pm

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Arrow Films wrote:The ever-prolific Takashi Miike, the director behind the likes of Audition, the Dead or Alive trilogy and Blade of the Immortal, returns with this intergalactic epic in which a team of space explorers find themselves pitched against a horde of oversized anthropomorphic cockroaches.

In the mid-21st century, humankind has been forced to look to colonising other planets as a means of combating overcrowding on Earth – their first stop, Mars. With a population of cockroaches having been introduced on Mars some 500 years prior to help prepare the way for human colonization, a manned mission sets out to the red planet with the aim of clearing away the bugs. Upon arrival, however, they discover that the roaches have evolved to huge, vicious creatures capable of wielding weapons.

Based on the popular Manga series of the same name, Terra Formars is an action-packed space adventure brought to life by one of Japan’s most celebrated contemporary filmmakers.

Production Year: 2016 | Region Code: B | Running Time: 108 | Number of Discs: 1 | Language: Japanese | Subtitles: English | Audio: 5.1 / Stereo | Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 | Colour: Colour
SPECIAL EDITION CONTENTS
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
Released: 1st April 2019
Trailer

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colinr0380
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Re: Terra Formars

#2 Post by colinr0380 » Fri Feb 22, 2019 4:14 pm

I must admit that I was a bit more interested in seeing the 2014 anime series over the live action feature, but it could be fun! This also stars Rinko Kikuchi (probably best known for her roles in Babel and the two Pacific Rim films) and of course the potential for this to be Takashi Miike's crazed take on Prometheus (crossed with his more kid friendly superhero titles, and with the potential for the film to turn into a boy band music video part-way through in the vein of Andromedia!) is quite enticing too!

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Re: Terra Formars

#3 Post by M Sanderson » Fri Mar 15, 2019 3:34 am

It appears unpromising- however, upon seeing that Miike is the director... well, he normally injects something of his personality into his films, and often does something g strange or subversive. I’ve not seen loads of Miike admittedly, but I’ve yet to see anything routine by him.

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Adam Grikepelis
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Re: Terra Formars

#4 Post by Adam Grikepelis » Fri Mar 15, 2019 4:41 am

I actually thought this was one of his better recent films. It mostly leaves behind the bigger budgeted pop-star headlined anime/manga adaptations, and isn't afraid to be weird or gory. No music video though Colin, I'm sorry to say.
SpoilerShow
From memory, this felt more like Miike's take on Starship Troopers, maybe without the media satire though.
Last edited by Adam Grikepelis on Fri Mar 15, 2019 8:41 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Terra Formars

#5 Post by colinr0380 » Fri Mar 15, 2019 6:29 pm

I will definitely give the film a try, though it is a shame (but not entirely unexpected!) that there is no surprise boy band music video to match the astonishingly bizarre tonal shift that occurs in the middle of 1998's Andromedia! (That is what inevitably happens when your film is built around the dual casting of a girl band, Speed, and the boy band, Da Pump, I suppose!) It almost makes Christopher Doyle appearing as the baddie seem understated!

(And now just because they were in a Takashi Miike film I have found out that Da Pump is still going strong and is now up to seven members (and a few re-castings) with a new album out at the end of last year!)

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Re: Terra Formars

#6 Post by Adam Grikepelis » Fri Mar 15, 2019 8:39 pm

Despite (apparently) having seen over 50 of his films, I’ve yet to see Andromedia. You’re definitely making it sound more interesting than the reviews that convinced me to give it a miss!

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Re: Terra Formars

#7 Post by colinr0380 » Sat Mar 16, 2019 3:31 am

Sorry for diverting the thread off track for a bit (I think I was led in this direction by the cover to Terra Formars having a dozen or so people on it, which made me think of boy bands and dance numbers!), but I kind of like Andromedia though you have to be prepared for it to be a teen-focused commercial work rather than anything particularly violent, though that makes it strange and bizarre in a different way than Audition-primed reviewers in the West were probably expecting! I wrote it up in more detail here, and would not casually recommend it as a first Miike experience but it is still worthwhile for fans of the director, especially in the early death of the heroine which seems to anticipate one of the early deaths in One Missed Call (a similarly teen-focused commercial film, though of course more horror based!) and the rather melancholy beach-set ending that is a bit like Full Metal Yakuza's!

Plus its better than Johnny Mnemonic! Christopher Doyle seems very much in the same kind of role that Takeshi Kitano was in that film, and is chewing the scenery with gusto, which comes across even though his voice is electronically dubbed into Japanese!
Last edited by colinr0380 on Sun Mar 17, 2019 6:33 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Adam Grikepelis
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Re: Terra Formars

#8 Post by Adam Grikepelis » Sun Mar 17, 2019 2:09 am

I'm not sure anyone's too upset over the diversion, as it's pretty much just the two of us posting ; )
Unfortunately, Andromedia seems a lot less available than it was a few years back when I decided to give it a miss. Maybe one day. While I'm glad that most of his new films continue to get english-friendly releases, I do wish someone would go back and manage to fill in at least some of the gaps left during the peak of his Western popularity.

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Re: Terra Formars

#9 Post by colinr0380 » Sun Mar 17, 2019 9:18 am

I think the negative reviews for Andromedia really came about because of confounding built up expectations of Takashi Miike film always equalling 'extreme'. Plus it appears that few at the time of the Pathfinder US DVD release picked up on the girl band and boy band casting aspect of the film, which might have caused some negativity in terms of wondering why there were so many characters all systematically being given their moment in the spotlight, along with the narrative break for the music video performance! A bit like criticising the Spice World film for having five main characters, without at least acknowledging that they were a girl group!

At the moment I'm most interested in seeing the slightly more recent Miike films Shield of Straw and As The Gods Will, though since I have begun playing through the Yakuza series I would really like to see 2007's Like A Dragon at some point, since that is based on the first entry in the game series (though I need to play the recently released on PC remake first, so I'm in no hurry!). I see that it stars one of Miike's early go-to actors, the impossibly handsome Kazuki Kitamura, in the role of Kiryu too (he's in Young Thugs: Innocent Blood, Andromedia, Ley Lines, Dead or Alive and has a really good character arc in Full Metal Yakuza. Like A Dragon appears to have been his last role for Miike until the recent Blade of the Immortal. His biggest role outside of Takashi Miike films is probably when he briefly turns up as one of the Crazy 88 gang members flanking Lucy Liu as she walks into the club in Kill Bill Vol 1, though of course Battle Royale actress Chiaki Kuriyama is given more prominence with her one-on-one fight against Uma Thurman at the end of the big club massacre scene)
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Re: Terra Formars

#10 Post by Adam Grikepelis » Mon Mar 18, 2019 1:59 am

While I'm still waiting for this conversation to be rerouted to a Miike thread, I've seen two of those three you mention, though I really can't remember much of anything about them other than to say Shield of Straw was decent, but I found Like a Dragon to be a bit underwhelming. Though, looking at his filmography, I realise I haven't truly loved anything he's made since Gozu other than 13 Assassins & Over Your Dead Body; yet he's still an interesting enough filmmaker that I keep coming back for more. I'll admit I do like the more extreme period he went through, but it's far from the only thing I enjoy about him as a filmmaker. It's funny, I remember walking out fairly early on a festival screening of his Graveyard of Honour remake due to feeling like it was just the same old yakuza schtick that at the time felt oh so tired, yet now I really like the film.

Somewhat like Jess Franco, I find despite perhaps having seen a number of underwhelming films that he's made, there's almost always scenes, ideas, characters, or moods that he creates that make each new film full of potential. Well maybe not Jess Franco after the early '80's so much...

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Re: Terra Formars

#11 Post by colinr0380 » Mon Mar 18, 2019 5:36 am

I would agree with your appreciation of Miike's films as often being less interesting for their, often standard, plots than their "scenes, ideas, characters or moods that he creates" that often move into interesting and idiosyncratic areas. The weird 'regression into childhood' that happens to one of the bad guys at the end of Andromedia for example is an interesting take on the cyberspace film trend of the mid-90s. A film that I like a lot is Full Metal Yakuza which takes a really goofy premise (rather cowardly yakuza wannabe with an idol complex about his gang boss ends up getting shot to pieces as well when the boss is assassinated and then gets patchworked back together with parts of his boss cyborg-style (by Tomoro Taguchi from the Tetsuo films!) before going on a roaring rampage of revenge) and makes it surprisingly interesting, both fun, disturbing and surprisingly moving at times! As well as riffing on the standard yakuza film template (and notions of masculinity and idol worship that are very similar to Gozu) in amusing ways.

Takashi Miike does seem to be in that vein of 'studio system without a studio' directors who seem to want to be constantly working on films and working with pre-existing material to mould a film out of (remakes, anime and computer game adaptations, yakuza films, even One Missed Call at the height of the Asian horror trend kicked off by Ring and Ju-On!) rather than cultivating particular passion projects, though he seems a bit less prolific in recent years compared to when he had the potential to make many films in quick succession for the straight to video market in the 1990s and early 2000s (I suppose we have not got 'straight to internet' films yet to fill that niche! Or rather I suppose that the area has gone 'prestige' instead with Netflix et al!). Its one of the reasons why, having enjoyed previous work, I would probably be curious to see any "Takashi Miike" film over the content of a particular film itself. Even Ninja Kids!!! (though that might be pushing it! I'd be more likely to pull Jellyfish Eyes out of my kevyip first before tracking that one down!)

I like that Jess Franco seemed to have the model of finding sympathetic patron producers (who defined particular periods of his career, with more or less money involved), and even in the decline into straight to video, straight up sex films and eventually into almost private 'home movies' shot in and around his house, seemed to retain that distinctively unique 'Franco-ness', even if the films never reached any kind of audience. (Kind of the same trajectory as Ken Russell in some ways, though of course Russell hit higher heights!)

I have always found it interesting that this kind of director is almost existing outside of a need to have their work seen and assessed by an audience at all. Presumably as long as they are providing the required or expected elements that the financiers are looking for (and the content that audiences will pay to see), there is a bit of leeway to then do their own thing with the general story or tone of the film. They really seem like the type of director that the auteur theory seems to most benefit, as that approach allows for an easy highlighting of particular themes (or camera framing, length of shots, locations, favourite actors, etc) in otherwise disparate works by suggesting a certain guiding sensibility (Though of course the danger of total adherence to the auteur theory is that it has the potential to turn the accidental and haphazard nature of filmmaking into a career that appears to have been pre-planned and carefully mapped out from the very start. Though the best work through the auteur perspective often tries to show the vicissitudes of fate even on the greatest directors: Orson Welles being the prime example!)

I guess we could add Woody Allen into that area of a prolific, 'industrial' director who is almost creating entirely to keep themselves working at this point (even Clint Eastwood, though he does have old-school studio patronage with Warners), at least until recent events, though Allen has a narrower range of film that he appears able to make (narrower even than Eastwood, who has been more experimental than ever in recent years with historical dramas, musicals, true story films, and so on), despite the couple of attempts at doing musicals. You probably would never see Allen doing a gangster film, to kids film, to horror, to sci-fi, to opera adaptation, etc in such a short space of time!

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Re: Terra Formars

#12 Post by colinr0380 » Wed May 08, 2019 4:00 am

"Did you plan for this to happen as well?"
"No. Its totally gone to shit"

This is the kind of film that makes one wonder what William Burroughs would have made of it, especially in that moment of one character (the one played by Rinko Kikuchi) emerging from within the body of one of the cockroach enemies, having used it as a costume, that is a bit like the surprise re-appearance of Roy Schieder's Dr Benway in Cronenberg's film of Naked Lunch.

After our tangential discussion of Andromedia and Christopher Doyle's over the top flamboyant baddie there, there is another incredibly over the top evil mastermind character (with a frankly impractical haircut) in Terra Formars that feels really similar! Both of these characters are similarly distanced from the main events, safe and secure in their offices and talking to the other characters through a viewscreen or, in Terra Formars, through a hologram projection which allows the character to teleport around a set, change size (with associated up pitching of the voice to be squeakier in tiny form!) and even make his entrance sitting on one of the character's shoulders as if they were one of those angel/devil figures of the subconscious at one point! (And this all feels like a pointed comic nod towards the Guy Pearce hologram in Prometheus! Though I also could not help but think back to Red Letter Media's comments about Darth Vader's hologram)

I would say that I did like Terra Formars and it is both incredibly silly whilst being played totally straight, as the best comedy should be! It plays out like one of those Sentai superhero series (or Tokusatsu ones? I'm afraid I am still getting familiar with the difference!) with every character being artificially implanted with insect DNA which allows the film to regularly stop for a bit of an etymological slideshow lesson as each person transforms! (I think that ties this in with a few other manga series that seem to be trying to teach otherwise dry subjects through fantastical approaches, such as Moyashimon: Tales of Agriculture and its quite in depth explanation of microorganism form and function. Or that recent series anthropomorphising the internal biology of the human body Cells At Work!, both of which got adapted into anime series) I was actually surprised by how in depth things go, with each character having a (highly specific to a single situation!) 'superpower' based on the particular insect that they have been fused with, and that itself gets used for a couple of comic moments such as when a couple of characters get killed before they transform and the omniscient narrator who introduces all of the powers still appears to say what powers they would have had, and that they probably would not have been that useful in the situation anyway! (Which made me think a bit about all those kids in Battle Royale who only got frying pans as weapons!).

It probably fits well with that 'costume superhero show' aspect though (as do the outlandish transformations and characters being able to change back and forth from one form to the other, unless they overdose! Also there is so much eyeliner on display! Even on hollow-eyed starving urchin children in one of the character's explanatory flashbacks!) in that we get the relatively standard arc of finding out the threat and what they can do, then about the powers that each of our extended cast of characters have and their post-transformation look, and then watch them battle (or still fail spectacularly! This is one of those Pitch Black-like 'depressing, everyone can possibly die' type sci-fi films. Which perhaps ties this series in with Attack on Titan as well). Which does also remind me that Shinya Tsukamoto's Tetsuo films are really just more extreme versions of this kind of material!

That variation of insect types amongst all of the cast of characters also makes the first half of the film about the threat from the evolved cockroaches (a massive force, but mostly uniform in look and behaviour. This is where the use of CGI for masses of figures in similar looking attacking armies actually helps, because that otherwise slightly distancing aspect of CGI often making everyone in a giant battle look and behave in a similar manner works to emphasise the inhuman overwhelming mass more) contrasting pointedly against the individual humans with their specific insect transformations and unique looks that allow for a diverse set of approaches to the situation. Which sometimes works out for them and sometimes (often!) does not, although for everyone having been surprised by what was done to them it is amusing to see that all of the characters quickly get a brain download to prepare them for just exactly what type of insect that they will become a form of. I guess that is an interesting form of cinematic shorthand though, to quickly brush past how characters know that their highly specific skill is going to come in handy right at that moment!

The other thing that came to mind whilst watching the first half and the introduction of all of the characters was, combined with what I have heard about Claire Denis' High Life so far, whether we are seeing a philosophical shift in the sci-fi film. Here the team sent to Mars to destroy the cockroach infestation is made up of a group of convicts and ne'er do wells: the child sex ring owner, the serial killer, the disgraced cop, the yakuza (of course the tattoos have to briefly come out at one point!), the illegal immigrant, the terrorist and of course the wronged ship captain who made the ultimate transgression of beating up one of his superior officers, and the tragic young lovers who only killed someone threatening to tear them apart. Plus the 'computer hacker' and one guy whose only crime was kickboxing! Apparently that sport is outlawed in the future of 2597!

After Interstellar took starry eyed idealism as far as it could possibly go, are we now seeing a new trend in general of prisoners rather than idealists going into space? That going off into the unknown is the ultimate punishment rather than an adventure anymore? Or maybe the only characters with a bit of vibrancy and life to them anymore that differentiates them from the rest of society immediately get criminalised for out of the norm behaviour! (It is also probably to allow for the majority of the characters to die horribly without being too much of a loss, I suppose!)

Anyway, there is a pretty clear split in the film at the half way point (about 55 minutes in) where the narrative shifts a bit from the above bug battling (and Pitch Black sense of people on a desperate quest to escape the planet whilst being picked off along the way), to something that feels much more like a riff on Alien and Prometheus, as the flamboyant company man (who seems more focused on asking what people think of his fashion sense than matters at hand! He also has some absolutely fantastic, slightly too mannered to feel realistic, shocked reaction shots to people having the temerity to talk back to him!) *shockingly* has a hidden agenda, based on previous expeditions bringing back a head of one of the evolved cockroaches (think the head in Prometheus) and now he wants to get his hands on a very H.R. Giger-esque egg! The group of humans splits into different factions (the problem with diversity, I suppose!), and everything goes into overdrive as a particular character unfortunately upgrades their insect abilities too much at once, and a few others return from apparent death after only having been hibernating!

I would say that whilst everything about the premise is incredibly silly, it is still a lot of fun, plays things as straightly as the material possibly can, and feels a lot as if Miike is pouring all of his big budget sci-fi ambitions into this one production (even including the flashback scene to the young lovers on the run in future Tokyo, which allows for a pretty blatant homage to Blade Runner in terms of crowded urban streets at night lit with neon signs, even before the flying car turns up! And I liked that even in this scene really early on that the main bad guy's police squad have armour that already looks like insect carapaces!), and it is amazing to see something that appears to be trying to match up to Prometheus in terms of scope and scale!

(Also, a bit like Icarus II in Sunshine, you always have to be suspicious when you are in a spaceship calling itself the second of something, because you will inevitably find out what horrible fate happened to the first ship at some point!)
Last edited by colinr0380 on Tue Jun 04, 2019 3:48 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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Re: Terra Formars

#13 Post by colinr0380 » Fri May 10, 2019 3:41 am

By the way I can see a little of the Starship Troopers parallels mentioned above and in the booklet, mostly in terms of a squad being immediately decimated by an overwhelming mass of bug-like enemies, and even the heroes never particularly trying to empathise with the inhuman 'enemy' at all, even when they start getting closer to them than they potentially would like to be (with our main character inevitably having a disgust and phobia of cockroaches that perhaps turns into a cathartic advantage in the battle scenes later on!), but in the end I think the Starship Troopers aspect, despite apparently being one of Takashi Miike's favourite films, might be a little misleading. If it were to be consciously Starship Troopers-like the satire about the surrounding society in general would have needed to have been ramped up hugely to really be in the same vein as the Verhoeven film (even the main baddie is kind of suggested to be working beyond the pale, and potentially might be brought to justice by the end of the film, suggesting that there might actually be some form of authority able to provide some counterbalance the situation that might step in if the 'truth' of a situation is just broadcast to them. In the Verhoeven film there is no particular truth left any more, just war and the media's positive propaganda spin on it).

And all of our characters being criminals means that Terraformars is in no way a satire on gung ho militarism or anything like that, being much more focused on a disparate group of individuals (a couple with explanatory flashbacks) facing overwhelming odds yet still retaining their individuality, to the extent of even being representatives of particular insects in their transformed states!

I do agree with the Tom Mes essay more however about the film feeling to be in the tradition of The Dirty Dozen. Mes also makes some really interesting comments about the team here being the 'expendable vanguard' of colonisation before the more concerted industrial scale efforts from Earth begin, with both these convicts turned proto-colonists and the now indigenous humanoid-cockroach population, albeit having a claim to the land for *only* 500 years, both being treated as nothing more than bugs to wipe the valuable landmass clean for future development for beings of 'actual value' to inhabit.

I also really like in the film that our lead flamboyant bad guy (who at one point effortlessly slides into frame behind one of our characters like a vampire!) has a really interesting implied ambivalent relationship with bugs, both expressing contempt for them as nothing more than vermin to be exterminated, yet also being impressed enough by their strength and resilient physical qualities to 'steal' their technology to use in human-insect DNA splicing! Maybe he has actually been working for the bugs all along! :o

(Though that is similar to the way he treats the human characters too. Maybe he's just an equal opportunist employer who only sees beings, human or otherwise, as having worth when they are of some use to him (as the cockroaches were in terraforming Mars) and only a nuisance once their purpose is complete?)

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