Ghost In The Shell: Innocence (Day 59)

Ghost in the Shell 2 - Innocence: 8.2 || A philosophically ambitious, Escher-like story told with spectacular visuals. One of the most fascinating movie-watching experiences I’ve had recently.

TITLE: Ghost In the Shell 2: Innocence
DIRECTOR: Mamoru Oshii
LANGUAGE: Japanese | COUNTRY: Japan
YEAR: 2004
PROFILE: Animated Science Fiction | 100 minutes | IMDb (7.5)

SYNOPSIS (Courtesy of Netflix): Writer-director Mamoru Oshii’s animated thriller concocts a complex follow-up to his monster hit, Ghost in the Shell. It’s now 2032, and machines and people have grown so similar they’re virtually interchangeable. The fate of the human race hangs in the balance, and a robot with human tendencies, Batou, is the only one who’s able to decipher why humanity has lost its allure. When he figures out the answer, he’ll face life’s ultimate questions.

Strengths: This one goes straight into the eye-candy hall of fame. It’s hard to choose the right superlatives for the film’s visual quality. There are about ten scenes that deliver images of uncanny beauty — I could watch them over and over. It’s apples and oranges to compare this against live-action cinematography — it deserves its own place.Ghost In The Shell

The story is less innovative than the visuals, but director Mamoru Oshii delves into challenging ideas about humanity and consciousness. Hardly a scene goes by without a nod to classic literature (Milton, Gogol, haiku, Japanese poets), and while the references can be difficult to follow in translation, the density of ideas is admirable. Combined with a haunting soundtrack and excellent 5.1 audio mix, it’s a powerfully immersive experience.

Weaknesses: I could imagine some viewers finding all the philosophical musings about consciousness and humanity to be pseudo-intellectual claptrap that looks pretty but doesn’t add up to much. I was enthralled, though, by the movie’s ambition and found the ideas stimulating, even if they weren’t completely worked out. Similarly, I suppose some viewers might consider the visuals to be too flashy for the film’s own good, but I was mesmerized.

There are some peculiarities to the animation. Specifically, the fairly immobile (and generally gray) faces contrast very starkly with the mind-blowing vividness of the environment. I suspect this was very intentional, but the “clarity gap” becomes distracting at times.

Ghost In The Shell 2: Innocence

The plot is difficult to follow. That may be due in part to translation difficulties. But it’s probably true that the story itself is too thin to support all the philosophical weight that Oshii piles on it. The core storyline is fairly conventional, as are the battle scenes, and the climax involves a development that comes out of nowhere.

Viewing Note: I don’t think it’s necessary to have seen the first Ghost in the Shell, which came out nine years before this one, but it helps. (It’s very much worth watching, but isn’t quite as ambitious or innovative.)

Characters/Performances: The characters’ drab expressions and pallid complexions are emblematic of their essential flatness — they exist more as platforms for philosophical propositions than as real people. The most compelling character, the Major from the first film, is frustratingly (but perhaps appropriately) peripheral.Ghost In The Shell -- Innocence

Best Moment: At the mid-point, there’s a scene of shifting realities that I’d like to re-watch. Probably more than once. Not only to marvel at the imagery but to follow the folding-in-on-itself path through consciousness.

File Under: animation, science fiction, consciousness, robots, mind-blowing visuals, identity, consciousness