Review Date: 2/16/20
Written And Directed By: Mamoru Oshii
Music: Kenji Kawai
Cast: Lance Henriksen, Mélanie St-Pierre, Kevin Durand
Writer/Director Mamoru Oshii finally got his chance to make a movie about Bassett Hounds being revered as gods. On a distant planet, eight tribes of humanoids peacefully co-existed until their creators abandoned them and they turned to war. Now only two tribes remain in a struggle for supremacy, while a third nears extinction. When an outcast named Wydd (Lance Henriksen) shows up escorting a supposedly extinct Druid, the power balance shifts. A catastrophic battle throws Wydd, Nascien (the Druid), a Briga fighter named Stellig (Kevin Durand), and a Columba fighter named Khala (Mélanie St-Pierre) together in a doomed quest for the holy land in search of answers about their existence. Khala and Stellig are mortal enemies, but Khala is untouchable because she's been blessed (i.e. slobbered on) by Gula (the revered Bassett Hound). Since this is an Oshii film, the holy land offers no answers, revelations, or hope, and just ushers in a new era of warfare with a newly awakened enemy.
The film seems less focused than Mamoru Oshii's other philosophical meditations on war, but perhaps the pointlessness of everything is actually the point he's trying to make. It's always hard to tell where he's coming from. The film was mostly shot on virtual sets, and while some of the CGI is good, most of it isn't. The writing is weak and the acting is poor, and Lance Henriksen seems to be the only one who tries to take any of it seriously. The anime-inspired action scenes are kinetic and visually interesting, but not particularly memorable. There's one spirited fight scene between Khala and Stellig that caught my attention, but it's nowhere near as good as the fights in Oshii's Japanese live action films ("Next Generation Patlabor: Tokyo War" (2015) and "Nowhere Girl" (2015) immediately come to mind). Longtime collaborator Kenji Kawai supplies a wonderful music score reminiscent of "Ghost In The Shell" (1995), which may be the highlight of the film. It was clearly made on a low budget (similar to Oshii's earlier "Assault Girls" (2009) ), and it's interesting to see how Oshii makes use of his limited resources to tell his story. Most films that are shot this way are nearly unwatchable.