Mamoru Oshii's GHOST IN THE SHELL 2: INNOCENCE
Movie review by Dennis D. McDonald
Mamoru Oshii (Avalon) does it again, this time with a sequel to Ghost in the Shell. Some of the same characters continue. The world of the future is even more detailed and incredible than in the original. There are more philosophical musings about the nature of humanity and technology. Plus, this may be the most incredible piece of animation I have ever seen.
But it is not a favorite film of mine, for a couple of reasons.
First, the quality of the animation is uneven. The extraordinary CGI effects put the character animation to shame. The visual jerkiness of cell based animation is clear in many scenes in comparison with the background. While our eyes pop at the lushness and richness of the background, the foreground characters seem two-dimensional and, well, “cartoony.” It doesn’t help that the main character lacks eyeballs; the expressiveness we associate with eyes is missing from his character. (Tokyo Godfathers isa much better integration of traditional animation with computer graphics, in my opinion.)
Second, as with some other Japanese anime, the synchronization of dialog with mouth movement is poor in some scenes, especially in close-ups. This is downright distracting, even when the viewer does not understand Japanese. The lip movements just don’t sync with the words, and that looks bad, and unrealistic. It’s annoying.
Third, there’s very little humor. I find it hard to believe that people will be able to survive in such a bleak future with so little humor. Or is it just that the concept of humor is impossible to program and as a result all the digital augmentation of memory and communication goes toother human thought processes, not to humor?
Fourth, the robot-versus-human metaphysical musings of the main characters are beginning to sound very 20th century to me. I’ve read the novels and seen the movies. It’s been done before. Granted, it has not been done with as much densely layered visual detail as this, but the story should come first, not the backgrounds, and Mamoru Oshii seems to have overlooked that simple fact. His characters are ciphers who inhabit the story almost as outsiders, even though we are expected to follow them closely as they search out the meaning of the exploding sex robots whose origins they are tracking down.
Did I say exploding sex robots? Yep, that’s what the story is about. That’s the conspiracy that sets off the movie —- too many upper-echelon society members are being offed by exploding sex robots —- and that is what the resolution draws to, only these sex robot don’t appear to have much in the way of, shall we say, sexual appurtenances when you get right down to it.
This is a fundamental flaw in a movie like this. Let’s assume that massive advances are made in the next 50 years in artificial intelligence. Who is to say that a major application will be to the creation of artificial humans? Won’t it be more likely that artificial intelligence will be applied to all manners of machines and manufactured machines and objects? This fascination we have with the meaning of humanity and whether we are different from artificial beings may be entirely misplaced. Our arguments may not be with whether or not to give citizenship rights to human-like androids, the argument may be whether or not smart toasters have legal rights.
I’m just kidding about the last point. I don’t expect for toasters to demand their own rights for at least 100 years.
But this movie is worth seeing, if only for the parade that occurs in the middle of the information city, and the thousands of birds that inhabit each frame. These are images that can only be imagined, and they are imagined here with a vengeance. But, as was the case with the animated Metropolis, the trees seem to have been lost for the forest. We can see the individual leaves, but we can’t always see the trees.
Copyright (c) 2005 by Dennis D. McDonald