A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Movie 340 – Ghost in the Shell

Ghost in the Shell – February 3rd, 2011

I feel so ridiculous admitting to never having seen this movie. I mean, I’m no expert, but I’ve seen a fair amount of anime in a few different genres. There was a time when Andy and I were going through the rather large collection at the video store we worked at and watching something new on a regular basis. How did I miss this? I’ve read the manga. I’ve watched the Stand Alone Complex series. I remember being told that the movie didn’t really live up to the source material, but I know tonight was the first time I’ve seen it for myself. I just seem to have missed a couple of anime classics, so it’s a good thing we’re watching everything we own, cause Andy’s better about buying them than I would be.

I will also admit that it’s been years since I read the manga. I’m far more immediately familiar with the SAC stuff than with the written material, so this isn’t going to be much of a comparison. I know I recognize plot elements, but I couldn’t say how closely it cleaves to its source. It certainly focuses on the more philosophical themes from the world it’s all set it, which is fine by me. I like the philosophical themes here. The question of what makes a person a person is one of the central issues I associate with Ghost in the Shell, regardless of format.

The setting for the movie (and all the material in the franchise, really) is a futuristic Japan in a world where cybernetic implants are the norm and cyborg parts and bodies are possible if you have the money for it. The more money you spend, the better your hardware is, with possibilities like enhanced sight, strength and even skin that can turn you invisible (though that last seems intended to be a government-only perk). Cyber-brain implants allow people to hook directly into an online network and even into each other, which means hacking isn’t just into people’s machines now. Your brain can be hacked too. The main characters for the movie are Section 9, an elite undercover government agency that handles network security. They are, as the young people say, Bad Asses. They’re also all using heavily modified cyborg bodies (except Togusa, who was recruited specifically because he’s all natural except for his cyber-brain implants, and Aramaki, the boss). But the most heavily modified of them all is Motoko, the Major. The only ‘real’ part of her left is her brain. Everything else is synthetic. And she’s beginning to have some questions.

The story of the movie follows a terrorist known as The Puppet Master. He’s a mysterious figure who’s been able to hack into protected systems, some of them inside people, and insert memories or instructions. And he’s been impossible to catch thus far. There’s a lot of politicking going on in the background of the movie. Machinations and plots and secrets. Plenty of maneuvering on the part of both the Section 9 folks and other government agencies and officials. And then midway through the movie a body is recovered. It should just be an empty cyborg shell, but it’s not. What differentiates a human from a purely cybernetic system is a “ghost”. And only humans have them. They can be dubbed, but dubs have flaws. And the body that shows up has a ghost, but no corresponding original owner. No human brain. It is a mystery, and Motoko wants to know if it’s possible that a ghost could be created by a program and if so, is she really real, or does she just believe she is because she’s been told so.

Now, the action in this movie is lovely. The visuals are gorgeous and the animation is beautifully done. There are some great car chases, and lots of fighting (including one fantastic scene where an invisible Motoko kicks a guy’s ass, throwing him around like a rag doll and since she’s invisible, all you see are the effects of what she’s doing). But while there’s plenty of action and lots of espionage hinted at, the point of the movie, and of the world as a whole, is the nature of personhood. What makes someone a someone, not a something? And will the definitions have to change as technology advances? The movie touches on it quite a lot and seems to be attempting to do more, but then it gets bogged down in extensive scenes of the city in the rain, or Motoko swimming, which is a pity. It’s not that long a movie, really, and the manga is a bit of a brick. So why the need for padding? And not padding that actually says anything about the world of the movie. Ah well. Maybe we’ll end up doing all of our television when we’re done with movies and I can really dig into all of this when we get to Stand Alone Complex. Or maybe tomorrow’s movie will do more with it. I don’t know. I haven’t seen the second Ghost in the Shell movie either.

February 3, 2011 - Posted by | daily reviews | , , , , , ,

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