I seldom get to watch an Oshii Mamoru film these days, so to be able to finally screen Garm Wars: The Last Druid is indeed a treat. As far as critiquing is concerned though, it was a little less enthusing than expected while still presenting quite a few gems along the way right down to its epic finish.
Oshii and scribe Geoffrey Gunn wrote the script which centers on a cloned supersoldier named Khara, played by Melanie St. Pierre. The film ventures into a spectacular journey of self-discovery beginning in a tumultuous time when the world of Annwn, forged by an ancient deity with the creation of eight different tribes known as the Garm, is plunged into war, descending the tribal populace to three – each battling for dominance. Lance Henriksen plays Wydd, a rogue Kumtach tribal elder on the run with a Nascien, the last remaining Druid that holds the key to answers for questions pertaining to the origins of the Garm, and the possible future that awaits.
Little does Khara know when Wydd is captured and questioned by Columba interrogators, that his emergence will trigger a series of events that soon make her question her own existence and the Garm as a whole. Lost in the fierce wastelands of Annwn after a huge battle, she crosses paths and forges a reluctant truce with Wydd in the company of Nascien and his dog, an enchanted Basett Hound called Gula, and a Brigun soldier name Skellig, in order venture out to the holy land where Wydd believes the answers lie. However, what lies ahead in the answers will ultimately bring uncertain change that could mean peace among the tribes, or a new era of war.
This one took a few viewings because there was a lot to absorb in the first ten minutes between the opening action sequence and the credits. St. Pierre shines in her role for most of her time on screen in addition to a few charming moments with actor Kevin Durand who plays battle-hardened soldier, Skellig, but it’s Henriksen who leaves his mark as Wydd and lends a balanced and hearty performance even if the extra hair and rugged costuming feel like it’s a little too much.
The tone of the film is well delivered and fitting with an ending that suits the overall nature of just what kind of movie this really is, particularly if you’re open-minded. A few tighter edits and more effort to emphasize why certain characters exist in this universe would have helped a little along the way as the story development tends to get lost in its some of the slow pacing and Kawai Kenji’s somewhat meandering score.
Beyond that, the film has a mighty handful of action and spectacle, and quite a few of the battle scenes were pretty impessive. On average, I’d say this is definitely worth a rental if you’re an Oshii fan and/or love female-centric actioners with an anime or sci-fi twist…or if you just love Lance Henriksen.
Garm Wars: The Last Druid has a lot for viewers to keep up with and tends to lag, but it’s an ambitious piece of film full of luster nonetheless. It does have it shortfalls, but in terms of overall vision and execution, Oshii stays on script.
The film is currently available in limited theaters and on VOD courtesy of Arc Entertainment.