Mamoru Oshii, director of Ghost in the Shell and Patlabor, brings us his first ever English language live-action movie Garm Wars: The Last Druid. Oshii is one of the biggest figures in the anime world and live-action is not a wholly new experience for him, but how does Garm Wars compare to this anime master’s previous body of work?
Garm Wars: The Last Druid, the first English language live-action film from Mamoru Oshii, takes place in a world where three military tribes are locked in a war of supremacy. Originally eight tribes were created by God, each with their own specialities and talents, but upon God’s departure, the eight have become three. The remaining tribes waged endless battles where clones fight, die and are downloaded beginning the cycle anew. That is, until a clone from the Kumtak tribe, who serve the Briga tribe, escapes from the Briga into the safety of the Columba tribe with what he claims is the last Druid. Druids are not of the eight tribes but are said to be messengers of God that died out long ago. Hoping to use the Druid, the Columba ship met their end at the hands of the Briga, but not before Khara23 (Mélanie St-Pierre) had escaped the ship in pursuit of the Kumtak clone Wydd (Lance Henriksen), the Druid (Summer H. Howell) and their captor the Briga clone, Skellig (Kevin Durand).
The story then follows these four characters and a Gula, a mysterious being to the inhabitants of their world but basically a basset hound, as they are separated from their tribes and decide to journey to the land of the Druids. This sacred and forbidden land is now their ultimate goal and with it hopes of the truth behind their existence and reason for being. Seeking the meaning of life and questioning their lives is the major theme running through the film. Breaking away from their origins of constant battle actually gives them a peek at what life could be like for them. Come to the end of the film, the answers the characters seek are answered, somewhat, but overall it feels like the film is only a prologue to something much deeper and grander.
Production I.G has really gone all out to produce some fantastic visuals for the film, the live-action and CG blends seamlessly, it’s really a feast for the eyes from start to finish. The visuals are joined by a very powerful soundtrack by Kenji Kawai (Ghost in the Shell, Patlabor) who has worked with Oshii previously on multiple occasions and that influence really comes through here. Fans of Ghost in the Shell and Patlabor especially will feel a sense of nostalgia and familiarity within this soundtrack but it’s still different enough to be unique. Bonus features include interviews with the cast and a little behind the scenes video called “Shout Out”.
With such a small cast in the film there’s a huge focus on ability and with an Oshii film what’s required from the actors is totally different from the norm. I’m glad to see Kevin Durand in a main role here and thought he did a great job, as did Mélanie St-Pierre and, of course, Lance Henriksen. As Oshii’s first English language film I feel that it does have a lot going against it but it’s a strong effort and I certainly want to see more.
Mamoru Oshii’s Garm Wars is mysterious, captivating and full of visual and audio mastery. The film grips you from the very outset but overall feels more like a prologue to a much deeper story, one I hope we will see the continuation of. The film follows some themes that can be found throughout Oshii’s work such as our identity and seeking out the meaning of life and our creation. If you’re a fan of Mamoru Oshii then you should definitely give this movie a chance.