Cyberpunk at its 1995 best.
We open up with a blood and gore splattering murder, a naked woman, and a lot of tall buildings and a lot of men wearing black sunglasses. The opening credits are clearly the inspiration for the opening credits of The Matrix, and several shots of things like falling rain and the fight scenes look like The Matrix as well. But stylistic ticks aside, the anime masterpiece is nothing like The Matrix. They may have the same skin, but they don’t have the same bones-their plots are substantially different.
I’m not really a fan of Anime. I had never heard of Ghost in The Shell until a few days ago. My anime experience is limited to Speed Racer and a few odd bits of tentacle porn. Oh, I sort of saw Star Blazers when my nephew watched it, but it was never a favorite of mine. But I saw that someone ranked Ghost in The Shell up there with The Matrix and Blade Runner, I thought I’d give it a look.
The story is about a number of cyborg secret agents, Government Agencies named things like Section 6 and Section 9, and a terrorist called The Puppet Master. Our heroes aren’t human, the only humans we see are not nice people. But then, the cyborgs are not all that nice either. Ghost in the Shell didn’t remind me of The Matrix so much as it reminded me of Blade Runner. But it is wholly its own film.
From the beginning there is talk about ‘Ghosts.’ This is an idea that is mentioned in passing. That humans-and cyborgs-had souls, but pure robots didn’t, or couldn’t, have a ghost. So when a robot who seems to have a ghost shows up, it confuses everyone. It turns out the Ghost is the mysterious Puppet Master.
Ghost in the Shell is an odd film, as all non-English, non-Hollywood films can seem odd. The usual format of three acts seems to be missing or maybe in the wrong order. There are long scenes where nothing happens. We watch the rain fall, we look at the trash in the river, we go diving with one of the cyborgs. There are very few things explained, which is one of the film’s strongest features. The makers of Ghost in the Shell don’t spend half the film explaining how cyborgs became a mainstay of normal everyday life, nor should they. But this leaves the casual viewer like me in a fog. There are clearly a lot of things going on, but very few of them make any sense.
I did love the look and sound of Ghost in the Shell. A great mixture of endless miles of tall glass buildings and small street level neighborhoods. The combat scenes were violent and interesting-completely unbelievable, but very cool looking. Like most Anime, there was the annoying habit of having hyper realistic looking people standing next to completely cartoony people. What the hell is up with that? Why can’t they make all the people look real or make all the people look silly? Make a choice for crying out loud.
There was a bit of nudity and a bit of hyper graphic violence, both were completely gratuitous. Why do we need to see naked dismembered women? Why do we need to see spinal cords and buckets of blood? Simple answer, we don’t.
Ghost in the Shell also suffered from a lot of dreadful voice over work, but I still prefer that to reading subtitles.
In the end, I didn’t love this film or think it was up there with Blade Runner or The Matrix. There was too much random crap happening, too many scenes that seem to have no point, too much time spent with cyborgs who were clearly based on The Terminatorand had no personalities. It has a few fun moments, but it spent a little too much time being clever.