Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence
OK, so, like, it’s 2032, and humans are all into augmenting their bodies with robotic technology. Some people have gone so crazy with it, they’re cyborgs—human spirits inhabiting fully mechanized body-shells. But, of course, the cyborgs and humans need lackeys, so they manufacture “dolls”—pure robots with no human elements at all. Some of these “dolls” are “gynoids,” hyperrealistic female robots created as concubines for their human owners. One gynoid goes crazy and slaughters her master, mayhem ensues, and the incident creates a backdrop for an in-depth, animated philosophical study of what it means to be human.
In the tradition of Rintaro’s Metropolis, Shoji Kawamori’s Macross Plus, and its direct predecessor, Ghost In The Shell, Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence explores the tenuous relationship between humans and technology. Quality-wise, the animation is first-rate—CGI backgrounds blend seamlessly with hand-drawn animated characters, giving director Mamoru Oshii’s dark, hard-boiled tale a rich and varied visual palette. Deeply saturated with color, expertly shaded, and realistically rendered, this film is geek-crack at its very best, an absolute joy to behold.
Unfortunately, Ghost in the Shell 2 is a little draggy in terms of plot and pacing. The original film wasn’t exactly action-packed, but its slick film-noirish style and thoughtful script made it a direct precursor to The Matrix, A.I., and other live-action sci-fi films. By contrast, Ghost 2 grinds along at a slow crawl, lavishing large amounts of time and detail on mundane things. For instance, you’ll spend three minutes watching the main character, cyborg government anti-terror officer Bateau, genuinely agonize over whether he should feed his dog dry or wet food. But the funny thing is that you won’t mind. Little moments like these emphasize the humanity behind Ghost’s cyborg characters and make the stilted, automatonlike movement of the dolls and gynoids even more troubling and off-putting.
The dialogue of Bateau, his nigh-human partner Togusa, and, well, nearly everyone else in the film (except for the gynoids, who communicate in stilted, doll-like voices) is peppered with religious axioms, quoting everything from the Bible to Confucius between fight scenes and glowing wow-look-at-that scenery. It’s a bit much to digest—die-hard fanboys will definitely want to watch more than once to pick up all of Ghost’s philosophical pastiche—but it’s almost better if you kick back, enjoy the electric Kool-Aid visuals, and catch Oshii’s slick references to everything from Blade Runner to Fritz Lang’s Metropolis.