Takashi Miike may not be an expert when it comes to entomology, but he knows how to make the most of an unusual premise. With that in mind, I would describe this as Miike lite, which isn’t a bad thing because while he is known for his depictions of sexual deviancy and extreme violence, a change of pace never hurts. For the most part that works in his favor because the way in which he conveys the ecosystem between humans and cockroaches doesn’t come off as weird for the sake of being weird. He could’ve done so, but it’s hard to say how that would’ve benefited him. Regardless, the restraint which he and collaborators show results in a well-meaning if a bit misguided approach when it comes to the characters’ interactions. For instance, there are moments where they exhibit a lack of trust due to knowing each other’s backgrounds, and even though it makes sense to be wary of a yakuza thug, it comes off as more of an afterthought than an attempt at emphasizing conflict within the crew. Still, they aren’t your typical astronauts which is a strong point. The fact that they’re misfits adds appeal to the lengths that they go to to ensure that Mars is suitable for colonization, and so they are no strangers when it comes to risky situations. That makes their encounters with the roaches all the more rousing.
The moments in which the crew injects insect DNA in order to gain an advantage over the roaches stand out because the amalgamation of insect and human becomes a focal point. It may not have much to offer as a philosophical examination in terms of where the line between man and creature is blurred, but what it does offer is nothing short of creative. Antennae sprout from heads and arms become arthropod-like in appearance, both of which are indicative of how the crew adapts to the conflict. Plus, it seems as though Miike is expressing his concerns about the dangers of genetic engineering. I won’t say where I stand on the issue, but his portrayal of it has given me something to think about.
While I’m not at a point where I can say that Miike is one of my favorite directors, I can’t say that I’ve ever regretted spending time with him. That said, this isn’t a particularly strong offering, but I was into it. Give it a shot if you’re curious about what it takes to terraform Mars.