Sunday, July 27, 2014

Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence Anime Movie Review

Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence
Movie - 100 minutes - 1 disc
$39.98 (2009) Blu-Ray
$29.98 (2009) w/book
$19.98 (2009)
$26.98 (2005) w/Millennium Actress
$29.99 (2004)
ISBN 678149175721
Japanese Audio - English Subtitles
English Audio (Blu-Ray only)
Director - Mamoru Oshii
Studio - Production I.G/Studio Ghibli

Synopsis: The future of humankind in the year 2032 is the progression of technology and its affect on organic life.  Scientific advances have allowed complete transference of human consciousness into prosthetic, cyborg bodies.  More commonplace is the addition of cybernetic enhancements to natural bodies.  Society has leaped forward with access to boundless information over the net and crime has followed.  Special units have been developed by the governments in an attempt to control the infinitely devious forms of cyber-crime.  Can you hack a person's soul?
Your standard black market sex doll dressed up as a geisha
Public Security Section 9 investigates the most serious cyber-crimes and has access to the most advanced technology.  They were once led by Major Motoko Kusanagi, a full-body cyborg, but she went rogue after merging with a completely artificial intelligence called The Puppet Master.  The rest of the group remains intact and continues to operate.  Batou was the Major's second in command and was very close to her when she disappeared.  He's a stoic tough-guy with a soft side as seen only by his pet basset hound.  Batou continues to search for clues to the Major's activities.
Let's just say you don't want to buy a malfunctioning sex doll
Batou's is now partnered with Togusa, the most human member of Section 9 (least artificial enhancements), who is a family man and was recruited from the police force.  The two investigate a series of gruesome murders perpetrated by life-like sex dolls.  It seems the dolls have malfunctioned and killed their masters.  Now the two Section 9 detectives must unravel the mystery behind the killer dolls.  Is it possible the artificial intelligence programmed into the dolls has gained a life of its own?  Could the Major somehow be behind the evolution of the dolls?  When a faint ghost is discovered in the most recent killer doll's body all bets are off!
Batou and partner Togusa are called in to investigate the grisly murders
Pros: Great animation, exhaustively detailed CG for the time period, lush backgrounds, focuses on Batou who was a favorite of mine from the first film and the manga, more Section 9 characters show up, presents an interesting detective case in the form of the dolls' artificial sentience, a lot for action than the first film, return of the Major (sorta)
The case runs deeper as Batou and Togusa investigate the sex dolls
Cons: Original DVD versions didn't include an English dub, English subtitles include sound effects ("helicopter approaching"), CG effects don't mesh well with regular animation and are too stiff (reminded me of a 3D video game background), Batou is a less compelling main character than the Major from the first film, too many quotes in the dialogue, action for action's sake, indulgent for the director (too much basset hound)
Batou is a complete hardass until he comes home to pamper his basset hound
Mike Tells It Straight: The first Ghost in the Shell was a classic, iconic film which helped define anime for a generation.  Oshii created a cutting edge masterpiece with international appeal and cemented himself as a major director.  The movie was so good it influenced the creators of The Matrix franchise.  Although it deviated from the original manga by a great degree GitS the movie was a standalone experience with its own philosophical and haunting voice.  A sequel was welcome news for fans everywhere and especially with Oshii at the helm again.
These sex dolls bear a striking resemblance to a certain Major
Animation technology had advanced considerably by the time the sequel was in production.  Computer graphics evolved in leaps and bounds with entire backgrounds being rendered digitally.  Even figures could be rendered, but the technology still lacked an organic feel to the human eye.  Oshii went with a combination of the two processes by digitally rendering the backgrounds with seemingly hand-drawn characters.  Western animators would fully embrace the all-digital process (Toy Story, Shrek), but Japanese animators were slower to adopt all digital and make a point to keep character renderings 2D in appearance (which I personally agree).
Batou has a difficult time buying dog food at his usual store
This film is an intense mash-up of incredibly rendered digital backgrounds with traditional ('organic') characters.  The attention to detail is ridiculous and works fairly well until we get to scenes with actual movement (like cars driving down a city street) where the differences become fairly obvious.  The combination works particularly well during the scene where Batou has a shoot out in a convenience store.  The first film was on the cutting edge of animation technology and Oshii continues this trend in the sequel.  Despite the lush backgrounds I felt the CG elements awkwardly interacted with the 2D elements at times and distracted me from the story.  In a few scenes I felt like I was watching a video game with the 2D characters moving through a poorly rendered background.

The CG work in this film is incredible.  This particular parade scene is crazy!
Oshii makes a real case for animation as high level art with this film.  The story is an obvious progression of his viewpoint on society and technology's potential for change, but I felt his execution and particularly the script was a bit too much.  It's a long movie and has quite a few drawn out scenes.  The dialogue was rife with literary quotes which stifled any natural feel to the character interactions.  Try talking in quotes all day and see how long people take you seriously.
Batou and Togusa follow up a lead with an unsavory hacker
With the Major out of the way at the end of the first film, Oshii would shift focus to fan-favorite character Batou and explore deeper into the consequences of limitless advances to technology.  The stage was set for a repeat performance of the first film's success.  Even the composer returned for the sequel.  It was a no brainer, right?
Oshii has mastered the fish eye lens
Batou's personality in the movies is much different than in the manga and Standalone Complex television series where he's a bit of a clown, but Oshii makes him a stoic hardass.  He's just not as compelling or deep of an individual as the Major.  The DVD released by Dreamworks had no English dub which cut it off from a majority of fans of the first film.  Unless you're into foreign films with subtitles then the pre-2009 Innocence releases were not aimed at you.  Thank goodness someone finally added a dub to the Blu-Ray release.
Batou has commando training and he gets to use it!
Dreamworks even pissed off the hardcore anime fans who hate dubs by making the subtitles closed captioned = including sound effects.  My favorite is the very first subtitle in the movie - ("helicopter approaching").  Despite its flaws I thought GitS 2 was a beautifully rendered movie and the story was mildly compelling.  It dragged on forever with those damn quotes, but I got what Oshii was trying to say. Check out this movie if you liked the first film and want to see where Oshii's vision goes.  Definitely get the Blu-Ray version with English dub and crisper visuals.  Standalone Complex is much more interesting and I recommend watching both television series if you haven't already (they were both run on Cartoon Network several times).
Is that the Major?  Is she behind the malfunctioning sex dolls?

TO BUY and Recommendations: