Tuesday, 15 August 2017

Review #1,224: 'Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence' (2004)

Despite the critical and commercial success of Mamoru Oshii's Ghost in the Shell, an adaptation of the equally-popular manga by Masamune Shirow, it took a whole nine years for a sequel to arrive. Without Oshii's involvement, a spin-off series entitled Stand Alone Complex was launched, which satisfied fans despite having very little connection to the movie, but shared many of its themes of cyber-punk futurism, perilous technological advancements, and philosophical pondering. Oshii's sequel, Innocence, which picks up the story of the original some years later, was what the fans really wanted. But does it live up to the legacy left by Ghost in the Shell, a film now considered a classic of the sci-fi genre, animated or not? It's focus is slight, but the ambition remains lofty, however Innocence certainly cowers in the presence of its towering predecessor.

Huge advancements in cybernetics now mean that the line between human and technology is more difficult to decipher than ever. Humans utilise robotics to increase their physical and mental potential, and your soul (or 'ghost') and memories can be downloaded, stored and transferred. Batou (voiced by Akio Otsuka), more cyborg than human, works for Section 9. One of his few memories is that of his former partner Major Motoko Kusanagi (Atsuko Tanaka), whose ghost disappeared into cyberspace at the end of the previous film. Now partnered with the mostly-human rookie Togusa (Koichi Yamadera), the bickering cops start to investigate a series of murders committed by malfunctioning gynoids, or sex bots. The trail leads them from the yakuza to a popular robot manufacturer, who provide a certain service for those with the money to pay for it.

The plot is be relatively straight-forward and carries the tone of a buddy-cop noir for the most part, although there's an occasional detour into mind-fucking 'ghost-hack' territory. But Oshii is less interested in the narrative driving Batou to get where he needs to be than the philosophical questions raised by this beautiful, terrifying future. The dialogue, which pulls quotes from various obscure philosophical texts, becomes increasingly difficult to keep up with, especially when the majority of the characters spend more time debating their place in the world than doing their actual job. And if you're watching with subtitles, like I did, then good luck to you. To compare it to The Matrix Reloaded may be somewhat harsh, as Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence boasts some stunning animation (a blend of hand-drawn and computer animation), and a collection of well-staged, bone-crunching action scenes. Some of the imagery is genuinely haunting, and it's in these moments that this sequel feels like it may live up to its predecessor.


Directed by: Mamoru Oshii
Voices: Akio Ôtsuka, Atsuko Tanaka, Kôichi Yamadera, Tamio Ôki
Country: Japan

Rating: ***

Tom Gillespie



Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence (2004) on IMDb

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