Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence
In a future time when most human thought has been accelerated by artificial intelligence and external memory can be shared on a universal matrix, Batou, an agent of the elite Section 9 Security Force and a being so artificially modified as to be essentially cyborg, is assigned, along with his mostly human partner, Togusa, to investigate a series of gruesome murders.
"Let me ask you this, do you consider yourself happy?"
In 1995 when the first movie came out, while Japanese audiences mostly ignored it, it wowed just about everyone else in the international scene mostly because of its jaw-dropping production values, atmospheric surrealism and a story most people at the time probably didn't get, myself included upon first viewing it on AXN when they aired it on cable TV. Here we are, about 10 years later and a sequel is set to come out. After waiting about an extra year to actually see the movie because I wasn't willing to get or watch the bootleg back in the Philippines, I'm happy to report that the wait was very well worth it.
To begin, I'd like to comment on how interesting the presentation of the dialogue is. While most might find it quite problematic and feel that it detracts from the movie, I think that the real problem here is that people might tend to put more importance in seeking where they come from, as opposed to what they actually mean in the context of the film. The author references are probably just a little extra for people who read a lot, but in the eyes of a person who doesn't even know who Milton is, such as myself, the dialogue works just fine. On a more technical level, the use of quotes is most likely to demonstrate the response speed of external memory since this is probably a commonplace for people that have computers inside their heads.
Then we have the overall message of the film. People seem to be all over the place with this one, from, "I don't like it because it doesn't discuss what was discussed in the first movie as well," to, "I don't like it because it doesn't add anything new to what was already discussed in the first movie." For the most part, both movies discuss almost completely different things. If the message of the first movie revolved around, "What is the meaning of being human?" this movie delves more into the matters of, "What is man's perception of life and recreating himself?" and if man can ever be truly happy about his current level of existence that of a creature endowed with a limited consciousness. Knowing this, it's completely baffling to me as to how most people came to those conclusions about the second movie.
The sequel doesn't exactly develop the characters too much since it's mainly primarily focused on deep insight through its characterization (sort of in the same way that the Cowboy Bebop movie is set up, much to the dissatisfaction of many of the fans). But for the most part, the characters do indeed have their own identities and it is made very apparent here. For example, there is a clear divide between Batou and Togusa, which is emphasized by how "human" each of them is. The secondary characters are also written quite well, and bring a lot to the table as far as exploring the message of the movie is concerned.
Which brings us to the animation production. I mean, it's pretty good, but I don't think that it doesn't have its own fair share of shortcomings. Sure the 3D is great, but the 2D animation (with the exception of the Oshii's holy basset hound of course) sort of fails to keep up to the point where I don't even see the characters anymore, just the very intricate backgrounds. That kind of presents a problem with me since the relatively good 3D just feels less impressive because of it. The lighting is very high-end though and I also enjoyed the parade through the city immensely. The final sequence in particular is the most brilliant use of 3D in the movie mainly because of its visual prowess and meticulous coordination. But when it comes down to it, visually, overall I was more impressed with the first movie as far as 2D animation goes.
Even with my somewhat critical comments about the actual animation, Oshii Mamoru's trademark direction and style, in which surrealism isn't necessarily tantamount to boredom, is a pleasure to watch. Had any other director done this, I'd probably find it very hard to stay interested, or awake for that matter, during this 99-minute excursion. This, to me, is his real talent as a director (as far as animation is concerned anyway, I'm not exactly the biggest Avalon fan). The music, by Kawai Kenji once again, is vastly improved over the original's soundtrack, mainly since everything here feels less depressing than the first movie. In fact, the overall tone of the movie is different. It feels much more passionate and dramatic than cold and desperate, yet at the same time retaining that surreal overtone. When the direction and music come together like this, it's like a light that shines ever so brilliantly.
One might notice that this isn't exactly a movie that is aimed to a large set of people regardless of how much they tried to market it all over the place using the first film's hype. I guess with a twenty million dollar budget, you'd probably want to see a return on that too. But really, it's a movie for patient people that are interested in hearing insight about the world around us and how we, as humans, interact with it and constantly change our way of thinking because of it. It's very thought provoking, and utterly mesmerizing in its incredible beauty in direction and in message. The closing in particular was well beyond what was expected, even after reading the original story in the manga, mainly because of what Oshii added to it. It manages to elicit this great sense of profound realization with just a few lines of dialogue in the end. The only other movie I know that has done this for me is Kon Satoshi's Millennium Actress.
So in conclusion, this is simply a brilliant film. So much better than its predecessor in almost all aspects, even more so since this feels more like an original Oshii creation. While it certainly isn't a movie for all, it definitely does have a captivating amount of power over people that are willing to understand and enjoy it, enough that they experience it more than once as intended.
Deduct two stars if you need a movie that just spells it out for you or is more action-packed or talks about something else other than man's perception of life. — Dominic Laeno
Recommended Audience: The actual premise is kind of adult-oriented and it has some bad language and semi-graphic violence, but there's not a whole lot you need to worry about.
Version(s) Viewed: R1 DVD
Review Status: Full (1/1)
Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence © 2004 Masamune Shirow / Go Fish Pictures / Bandai Visual / Production IG
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