A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Movie 341 – Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence

Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence – February 4th, 2011

So, like last night’s movie, this was a new one for me. I feel less guilty about it since it came out after I finished college and smack in the middle of when I was in grad school. Graduate courses keep you busy, you know? I wasn’t watching many movies at the time and certainly not ones that required me to focus entirely on them for the subtitles and the philosophy. Because yes, this movie does indeed have a lot of talking about life and what it is and what it means and what qualifies as alive and ethics and so on and so forth, and it’s a good idea to pay attention.

Last night I know I bemoaned the lack of substance in the movie. It touched on things without really going into the depth that I know the material is capable of. Tonight I think there was a bit of a swing in the opposite direction. The movie does these very deliberate slow pans across the gorgeous scenery, with the characters standing still in the middle of it all, talking about philosophy. They quote Shakespeare and Milton and the Bible at each other and to be honest, it started to feel like it was going nowhere and I found myself looking down at my computer to escape it. It’s not that I dislike the topics at hand, it’s just that sometimes it felt like the movie was deliberately looking for ways to make it all seem super meaningful without actually managing to do so. There’s a long scene in a mansion, with someone Batou knows and he’s tricked him and Togusa and it’s all virtual reality, but not really and they talk and talk and talk. It felt like it went on for hours. And this isn’t what I wanted when I said I wanted substance.

Thank goodness there’s a little more meat to the movie than that. It’s not all just seasoning. The plot revolves around rogue androids who are really high end sex dolls. A number of copies of the same model have all gone on killing sprees, eventually self-destructing and erasing their own memories. Section 9, our bad ass government security task force, takes on the case when they find that at least one politician has been involved and that all of the families of people killed by the dolls have settled out of court instead of suing the responsible company. And once that’s established early on in the movie the rest of the story is about Batou – the super heavy duty cyborg who used to be partnered with Major Motoko – and his new partner, the almost all organic Togusa tracking down the point behind the rogues and discussing the nature of life.

You might have noticed that I described Batou as formerly Motoko’s partner. This is because this movie is picking up where the first one left off. Oh, it can be watched on its own, I’m sure, but it’s set in the same continuity, so Motoko is still officially MIA and the vast majority of the movie happens without her. And I think that might be the source of some of my problems with the movie’s long and meandering discussions of ethics and philosophy. Motoko has a vested interest in the questions she raises in the first movie, but Batou seems to mostly be considering the issues at hand here due to his relationship with Motoko and her absence. It puts it all at a remove, because the people talking are all looking at the issue from the outside, whereas Motoko looks at things personally.

The issues at hand are about the dolls and whether they are alive and whether they should be. They touch on how humans create machines to be more human without considering the consequences. And it’s all interesting stuff. After all, the whole plot with the dolls going rogue and murdering people, and the sinister source of the dolls themselves is heavy material. But for all its philosophical maundering, the movie never really hits any true insights. It asks questions and never looks for the answers. It never gives the characters the time to do so.

Once again, the animation is gorgeous, and sometimes the style backs up the material. In particular, when Batou and Togusa go to visit the forensics expert who’s recovered data from one of the self-destructed dolls they all have a discussion about whether the dolls are alive. This is the start of that whole train of thought and it’s introduced well. The forensics expert refers to the dolls as having committed suicide. This provokes a response from Togusa and a different response from Batou, allowing the expert to give them her thoughts on the matter, and all through it are shots of her lab. It is white and cold and sterile, full of dismembered robotic parts hooked up to diagnostic machines. And there is something about the pairing of a discussion of machines coming to life with scenes of them in pieces that simply works in a way that some of the later discussions don’t. I can appreciate the aesthetics of the film while still thinking that they don’t quite support the dialogue and vice versa.

Fortunately for the movie, Motoko does show up near the end, though not in the form we’re used to. Which I like. I think it’s a good choice for this particular story that she be in a different body, showing just how fluid her physical identity is. She isn’t the body she inhabits and therefore she isn’t tied to a temporal form. It gives her character an interesting dimension. And because she has such a completely different view on the matter of what makes someone or something alive, her presence changes the whole dynamic of any conversations she takes part in. By the end, when the creepy dolls are attacking Batou and Motoko looks like they do, and they find a real organic person in the middle of it all, there’s some interesting stuff going on. Unfortunately, that’s where it ends. Thank goodness there’s the series.

February 4, 2011 - Posted by | daily reviews | , , , ,

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