Garm Wars: The Last Druid (2014)

Mamoru Oshii is a curious puzzle.

He put himself on the map with his work on the Patlabor series and movies, became an Anime superstar when he directed Ghost in the Shell – and yet he’s only directed two anime since then.

And the last one was back in 2008.

His films combine intense, over the top action sequences with lots of long segments of people talking – talking about philosophy and politics, mostly.  Or just standing around against a stunning background.

Garm Wars feels a lot like an anime film, with its incredible hardware, dramatic backgrounds, complex mythology and dense tangle of ideas.

And more than anything else, it is visually stunning, from its lavish and ornate interiors to its moody and atmospheric backgrounds.  At times its green screen origins reveal themselves, but on the whole he carries it off easily.  In many respects, its world reminds me of James Cameron’s Avatar.  Oshii seems to have been trying to recreate anime as a live action film and one does have to wonder if this low budget effort is meant to be a calling card to the big studios for a much more ambitious project.

For those who can tune into Oshii’s odd vibe, it is an enjoyable movie – although I have no idea how many people are capable of doing that.

But it does seem odd that its decidedly downbeat ending fails to stir up much of an emotional response.  Perhaps it’s because it resorts to a classic cliche that has shown up in so many SF movies – such as Mario Bava’s Planet of the Vampires.

(For more about Mamoru Oshii, see here).


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