In the year 2029, advances in Cybernetics allow people to replace nearly all of their body parts and organs with robotics. Through these prosthetics, the weak are made strong, and the dying are given new life. Public Security Section 9 of Niihama City (a fictional setting inspired by Hong Kong), a diverse team of AI, cyborgs and unmodified humans, must investigate cases of corruption and terrorism. Major Motoko Kusanagi has full-body prosthetics, owing to a childhood accident. She, her second in command Batou and information specialist Ishikawa have been assigned an important task: to investigate a hacker known only as "The Puppetmaster." But as Motoko and her team discover, things are never so simple.
Ghost in the Shell is a futuristic thriller with intense action scenes mixed with slower artistic sequences and many philosophical questions about one's soul, gender and human identity in such an advanced age of technology.
Mamoru Oshii's Ghost in the Shell was the first film to adapt Masumane Shirow's manga of the same name. It heavily condenses the original storyline, reducing the original material's comic relief and sexual content in favor of a more serious tone and changing the setting from Japan to a city modelled after Hong Kong. The artwork within the animated film was produced using an innovative mix of cel animation and digital effects. Ghost in the Shell is one of the world's most famous Japanese animated films, being the first to reach #1 on Billboard magazine's video best-seller list, and also served as a major inspiration for the Wachowskis in their creation of the Matrix movies. A special edition titled Ghost in the Shell: 2.0 was released in 2008, which features scenes reanimated with additional CGI to match the style of the 2004's sequel, Ghost in the Shell: Innocence.
I just want to start off by saying that "Ghost In The Shell" loves to asks it's audience questions. What is it that makes us human? Is it the soul (refered to as 'ghosts' in this film)? Or is it flesh and bone? What happens when your memories can be erased and replaced like music on your iPod? If your body is entirely mechanical, can you still call yourself human? If your consciousness is active, yet your body is nowhere to be found, do you still exist?
Okay, I'm giving myself a headache. Let's get to the review.
Cyborg cops battle an anonymous super-hacker who takes control
of people's computerized brains and forces them to do his bidding. It's a wicked sci-fi thriller, yet it's also so much more. Not only is it a refreshingly original take on the standard Cops vs Criminals plot, but it manages to do it in such an intelligent manner. At it's core, the movie asks the audience "What is it that makes us Human?" Although it never truly finds an answer (can anyone?), it gets closer to it than any other film has yet dared to go. The best part is, with all the philosphical, existentialist and technical chatter, it never really tries to beat the audience over the head with it. Many of the "big questions" are handled in subtle ways that keep the pace of the film going, while still making the audience think. "Ghost In The Shell" is cyberpunk at it's best.
GitS came out in 1995 and still the visuals can compete with current animation standards. This film has aged extremely well. The action is wicked, every scene is full of atmosphere thanks to well detailed backgrounds, and the limited CGI is well integrated, even in such an early stage of CG animation. Yet the most astonishing part of the art is not the quality of the animation, or the artwork. It's the level of thought and polish that went into creating the look and feel of this film. As an exemple: There is a scene where the heroine, Motoko, is fighting a criminal while wearing a suit that makes her invisible. Even though she is invisble, we can still see her shadow. This is because her invisbility is only an optical illusion. There is still a solid mass blocking the light. It's little details like this one that make the visuals so incredible and, more importantly, believable.
The sounds of the film remain on the same high level as the art. Gunfire, ricochets, explosions, and even all the little computer noises are crisp and well implemented. The music is also quite fitting and original ('Making of a Cyborg', played during the opening credits, is one example). My only gripe is the voice actors are not at their best in this film (of course I mean the english cast). I greatly dislike Motoko's voice (Mimi Woods) and would much prefer Mary Elizabeth McGlynn, who voiced her in pretty much every other GitS project. The rest of the cast is the same as it is in current GitS projects, but you can tell they weren't as skilled as they are today. Still, they are quite good and it by no means ruins the film.
Though all the characters had aspects that made them interesting, Motoko is really the star of the show here and is the only character who developped over the course of the film. Of course, the direction in which her character went more than makes up for this fact. Throughout the whole film she is struggling with the thought of losing her humanity due to being a cyborg, and it all leads up to an incredible finale that just leaves you in awe.
Now, I'm giving it a 10 for enjoyment, but with an asterix. I personally loved this movie to death due to just how intelligent it is. Unfortunately, it is not an easy film to get into. Very little time is taken to explain how the GitS universe works. For example: The opening scene has Motoko speaking telepathically with Batou, who's nowhere to be scene. The film never really takes the time to explain how this is done, but you do manage to draw your own conclusions once you get your first glimpse of a cyberbrain. Unfortunately, much of the film relies on just how quickly the audience can put together the little details of the world and storyline. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, but it can make things needlessly complicated and actually alienate viewers who may not have the patience to put together the pieces of this techno-puzzle. Luckily, the principle story is simple enough, and the action is good enough so that viewers can still have fun with it. Basically, it can leave you feeling pretty stupid, but you still pat yourself on the back for seeing it through to the end. And don't be surprised if you want to watch it a second time.
With great action and an intelligent narative, "Ghost In The Shell" is a classic. It inspired "The Matrix", and anyone who has seen that film will know how great of a compliment that is. If you're into philosophical discussions about the soul and the consequences of technological evolution, see this film. If you just want to see a bunch of cyborg cops shooting stuff up, see this film. You will not be disapointed.
I didn't read any manga or anything about the Ghost in the Shell world prior to watching, so that may have influenced my enjoyment. I'm aware of the fact that this is an intellectual and philosophical movie, and not one that focuses on bombastic explosions and violence. No, this is a movie driven by concept, a concept that is shown, not told, in a slow, vague approach that requires attention, thought, and patience. Yet, despite the effort needed to fully understand the film, it offers a surprisingly simple and disappointing payoff.
This is a movie that did not provoke thinking or cause me to question my
existence or my self worth as a human being, it just wasn't complex or deep enough to change my views on humanity, and instead the topics it brought up seemed obvious to me. This is a movie that tackles human existence on a purely scientific level, which essentially boils it down to a simple fact: that our consciousness, memories, and emotions are merely created from electrical pulses within our brains. Humanity is separated into two parts, our consciousness and our physical body. For us, technology hasn't reached a point where these things that make us distinctly unique can be controlled and artificially replicated. The fact that we can't lends upon contemporary humans a certain sacredness to our existence, to birth, to life, and to our intelligence. The moment technology crosses that barrier, what makes us human will no longer be special or unique. This technological barrier is something that has already been crossed in the GITS universe, and with it, they decide to squander the potential of the setting, and only ask one question: What is a difference between man and machine?
At some point, there really is no practical difference, and ultimately, this is the answer the movie provides, and disappointingly, this is the only answer it provides with very little elaboration.
What truly scares me, would be if humans will be responsible enough to guide us on the correct path of evolution once we become powerful enough to control it ourselves. Will society be destroyed by the folly of man when we obtain the power of "god"? Or will we evolve into a more advanced species? Will humanity be willing to throw away the primitive identity of what makes us human for the sake of transcending into a higher organism? How will society compete in a world where cybernetic parts are far superior to the organic ones we are born with? How can we trust anyone or anything, how would we know what is real and what is not once our memories and senses can be completely replaced?
This movie sort of touches a serious topic, when hackers steal the memories of others for personal gain. This is to show that a human's soul can be modified, just like a program, and it is a situation that is only presented in response to the movie's central, existential question. But besides this the movie doesn't touch any remotely serious topic at all, and most of the movie spends it's time focusing on needlessly building upon a rather pointless existential crisis sort of thing. Because the movie ignored addressing actually important and very real issues future technology will impose on humanity, the movie simply fell flat to me. The setting was immersive and well made, and the story had potential to go a different and much more interesting route. But instead, it too a very simplistic philosophical approach and made it needlessly convoluted.
The setting and atmosphere of the world, as well as the artwork of the city were very beautiful and interesting. The music was very fitting as well. But besides that I did not find anything I enjoyed.
I took the time watching the highly acclaimed Ghost in the Shell, which is pretty famous for its philosophical and thought-provoking themes.
The story is set in a futuristic world where cyber-hacking exists, and one can control a person's actions through hacking their brains with an element known as "ghost". The film moves on a very slow pace almost throughout, alas a key factor in one deciding to drop it midway.
The script is the weak point of the movie. It it too short and it fails to explain just what is going on in this movie. It starts well, it has great pacing and it builds
nicely, but then it grinds to a halt about midpoint and it never gets going again.
The main premise of the movie remains unexplained: just what is a ghost and how does somebody hack into it? Are all humans cyborgs? Do they all have artificial bodies? Or just a few?
On a deeper level, the script tries to touch on a more interesting problem: what exactly do humans feel, if you take away their body? Are they still humans? Or something else? Are they still capable of love and devotion?
The music is great. The theme is haunting, it is surprising and quite stirring. It also complements very well the images on the screen.
Ghost in the Shell has some of the best animation I've ever seen, and the character designs really fit the story. There are moments when the camera simply stops in place, lost in a long contemplation, as people go in and out of the picture. There is also the use of water as a mirror, reflecting the reality above, around and beyond it.
The action scenes are well done, and during dialogues the camera has a way of focusing on the person who listens, not on the one who is talking, which may be confusing, at first, but then it becomes quite interesting. The camera moves a lot, and the director makes a point out of filling in the entire space around the characters.
20 years on after releasing, the art is still top notch and packs a punch. It might a bit dated by today's standards, maybe, but still very well done. The characters are interesting, and the surroundings are full of small, fine touches, of which some may seem like a little far-fetched, at first, but they all add to the atmosphere of the movie. The action sequences are also well done, but there's only a couple of them and they're short-lived. Then we're stuck with another long sequence of events which add-up to little.
In the end, I come back asking myself just what is Ghost in the Shell? The answer to that is that it's a good action anime, that develops a midlife crisis.
Ah...Ghost In The Shell. I'm writing this JUST after finishing it. If you watched the original Matrix and went "Holy Jesus this is the most amazing movie i've ever seen IN MY LIFE" then Ghost in the Shell will dropkick you in the face. Seriously.
Story: This is the kind of stuff that university essay could be written about. I'm going to have to watch this again just to completely understand everything about this movie. Now, just so you understand, the storyline isn't amazing. But the science and the mythology this anime is based on is so incredible. I believe,
according to a few sources, that if you took all the footnotes in the manga they total to over 30 pages. Or was it 200? The point is that the science that's used in this movie is absolutely amazing.
Art: The art is old. The art is...Akira old. It's very old, but the details that are in it are incredibly amazing. The art is old but it doesn't seem stale. It's that good kind of old....classic. They used some really cool effects in here...especially when some people turned invisible. Oh..major plot hole if anyone notices...there's a guy who turns invisible...with all of his clothes on. Whereas the girl....needs to strip naked...which she does QUITE often. The nudity in this is tastefully done...it's not like Elfen Lied (no offense) where Nyu shows her boobs every couple of scenes.
Character: There is major character development for two characters. Batou and the Major. No one else really gets developed too much. Sometimes they'd show you a character who did one thing and then you'd never see them again ever. I'm not complaining too much, it never bugged me at all. But you do get a real sense of humanity from these characters...that's a funny thing to say though, if you watch the anime you'll figure out why.
Enjoyment: I guarantee that almost anyone who enjoys anime will also enjoy this. Anyone who liked the Matrix will enjoy this. It's an incredibly amazing anime, it's deep, it's slightly frightening. The single thing that this anime does not have is comic relief...never once did I laugh. Never once did I actually want to laugh. This movie is so serious that if any attempt was made at making it slightly funny the attempt would surely fail.
Seriously, go...watch this anime right now, and I promise...that you will not be disappointed.
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