If I had made an honorable mention section in my Top Ten List of anime films of the past decade, Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence would have topped the list. I can think of no anime film I’ve seen since Ghost in the Shell that has anything like the impact of Innoncence. This is certainly one of the best of its kind. Unfortunately, lacking the sexiness and high energy of the original, it has gone largely unnoticed. Off the bat, you’ll notice the production values are excellent and the blu-ray treatment of this is superb. Even a simple, seemingly underthought image like the final two shots of the movie will stick with you long after the closing credits roll. People accuse the movie of not having a brain of its own, but I think any movie that engages the brain of its audience needn’t make apologies.
In the first film, a team of futuristic detectives found themselves unraveling a high-tech conspiracy until one of them, Major Motoko, gives up her or body while her or soul disappears into the electronic realm. Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence is set years later, in 2032. Working with Togusa who is a mostly human officer recruited to the team by the former Major – Batou is put on the case of several murders, committed by prototype female sex droids that afterward commit suicide. Their investigation leads them from violent yakuza thugs to mind-altering criminal hackers and corporate masterminds. I think that Oshii did a great job in showcasing that sense of sadness with Batou not having his partner but then knowing that no matter what, she will still be there for him in some sort of way.
Clearly, Oshii has envisioned a future and treated it as a reality. The problem for me however was that the dialogue that is present is much was too abstract for a cyber-crime film. This is a complex film, and rewards the viewer with multiple showings, if you have the patience. The story is great and the philosophical/moral questions arising from the premise of machines becoming too human always makes for an interesting topic.
If you are a self proclaimed intellectual, this movie may be right up your alley. The plot is sadly lost in incessant spewing of western and biblical quotes. Whole conversations consist of characters rambling off quotes to each other. Then you are assaulted by scenes of character’s e-brains getting hacked that are meant to make you question “what is real?” So in conclusion, this is not a hands-down great film. It has great execution, but the ideas ultimately come off half-baked and unresolved. The end twist is actually a knockout and makes it worth seeing. But I must stress that although I am giving this a fairly high grade, I want to note that animation is about storytelling with moving pictures. Story pacing and timing is very important. While I don’t mind movies that run at a slower pace, it also shouldn’t lag. Ultimately, this film finds a good enough balance to work.