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Garm Wars: The Last Druid (2013)
Director: Mamoru Oshii

review by Steven Hampton

Bursting with video-gamer styled imagery, that unfortunately firewalls a somewhat muddled plot of baroque sci-fi concerns, this live-action feature starts with a battle, continues with wearying narration, and then goes clunking and grinding along with chapters of gloomy portent. It's about a planetary scale conflict between tribes of air and land. The effects-laden scenario narrowly avoids being dramatically leaden only by showcasing its handful of characters that appear in overly luminous scenes which benefit from a lyrical grandeur.

From the creator of quality anime pictures, like Patlabor and The Sky Crawlers, this is Mamoru Oshii's first live-action movie produced in English. Garm Wars: The Last Druid features the director's basset hound fixation (imported from GITS and Avalon) much in evidence, and here it means more signature quirks than genre values, except for magnificent auteurial vistas of elegant design for military futurism.

The full weight of a necessary actorly charisma, screen presence, and thespian watch-ability rests upon the shoulders of veteran Lance Henriksen, whose characterisation of Wydd the druid is capable of making even the cruellest hammy dialogue - that's inflicted upon him and us - seem a remarkably lighter burden than it might have been for a weaker performer with less prominent experience in SF. Garm Wars' heroine Khara (Melanie St-Pierre), protests against all of the routinely endless fighting, and yet she appears to be cyber-genetically made for this cloned job, as starship trooper in this space fantasy of dubious merits and derivative nature that avoids becoming an entirely disposable DVD rental because of the sheer vitality of its CGI artistry.

Such is the impressive spectacle of the combat survivors' questing journey that this is effective as digital paintings and animation sequences with frequently stunning mise-en- scène, even though precious little of its unoriginal storyline makes logical sense beyond action clichés, whether in narrative-showing or illustrated-telling modes. Like the filmmaker's previous live-actioner Assault Girls (2009), this feature relies heavily upon hi-tech visual poetics for its primary cinematic appeal. Thankfully, Garm Wars has plenty of them, with certainly more than enough breathtaking images to enable viewers to overlook a medley of generic flaws in other areas.

Garm Wars: The Last Druid

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