Innocence [Ghost in the Shell 2] Review Thread

Discussion in 'Movies' started by ChristopherDAC, Sep 18, 2004.

  1. ChristopherDAC

    ChristopherDAC Producer

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    Since it appears nobody else has done so, I thought I'd start this off with the capsule review I wrote for the Anime Discussion thread, based on my viewing the film last night at the Inwood theatre in Dallas.

    CAPSULE REVIEW
    The show was subtitled and presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 [or possibly DD-EX 6.1, the only sign in the theatre was for "Dolby Digital" so I can't be sure, but am fairly certin it was not dts or dts-es in any case]. Subtitles were plain white, with no borders, and tended to get lost in bright scenes. Interestingly, once something [there are recurring short lines of dialogue and Chinese inscriptions] had been subtitled, it was not subtitled upon repitition. Sound quality was excellent, and the mix made full use of the surround channels, including routing Kawai's music to them. New English credit sequences had been prepared, and there are plenty of credits. The Eirin [Japanese film censorship board] number was not in evidence. Family names were listed last, and this was a little bizarre when it rendered the well-known pseudonym of the creator as "Shirow Masamune". The whole chorus for the vocal BGM sequences [some of which are heavily referential to the original Ghost in the Shell score, but with interesting twists] is credited.
    The film is largely comprehensible and rewarding without watching the original film first, but I do recommend it. The plot may be described as a straightforward [!] detective/police procedural centering on the characters of Batou and his new partner Togusa as they attempt to solve a string of bizarre homicides, interleaved with extended riffs on the nature of consciousness and humanity. The pacing strikes me as awkward, drawn out almost unbearably in some sequences and excessively rushed in others. There are some sequences which may be puzzling or simply insanely irritating such as the whole business with Kim and his nested illusions.
    One thing to watch out for is that a huge fraction of the dialogue is quotes, aphorisms, and proverbs. There was a little of this present in the first film, but it feels like a good two thirds of this one's script is repitition or adaptation of carefully-chosen stock phrases, some of which are not obvious as such without a strong familiarity with Japanese, although Western material tends to be placed in quotation marks. Given the heavy reliance of Japanese language and society upon rote phrases, this is an aspect which fails somewhat to resonate with the foreign viewer. There is a great deal of violence, some of it of a plainly psychotic order, and quite disturbing.
    The visuals are bizarre. Production I.G. has superimposed flat, coulour-unsaturated cel animation [or mock cel animation] of characters over hyperrealistic 3D video-game-style computer animation. Mecha designer Takeuchi [one of several old AIC hands on this production] has a real ball and creates some splendid items which must have been hell to render; watch out for the VTOL landing sequence. Personally I suspect this jarring juxtaposition to be one of director Oshii's pet conceits, meant to make a point about the unreality of the cyborg lives these people lead, or the Kantian ambiguity of sensory data [which shows up several times, in more or less sinister guises]. It did, however, detract somewhat from my enjoyment of the film, mostly by making it physically more difficult to watch.

    All in all, it was worth the hour each way and $5.50 [student rate] admission to me, but might not be for everyone.
     
  2. Paul_Sjordal

    Paul_Sjordal Supporting Actor

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    I'll probably catch this one in the theaters, but I am a little apprehensive in that the movie seems to have received mixed reviews from the critics.

    RottenTomatoes: 57%

    MetaCritic: 67%
     
  3. Tony_Ramos

    Tony_Ramos Second Unit

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    If you don't mind films that incorporate a lot of philosophy, or you can at least tolerate it until you get to the action, you will likely be amazed by the film.

    Those who like to be challenged by movie's will find the movie to be quite thought provoking, although, much like Eastern Philosophy, the film asks more questions than it does provide answers.

    As for how it compares to the first film, I found it larger in scope, but with a more intimate relatinship with the characters. It is slightly less intelligible philosophically. The basic plot is much more faithful to classic film noir. And the anime is even better than the first film.


    Anime and sci-fi fans would be wise to see the film in a theater, before it gets grimy and faded. Judging from the lackluster DVD of the first Ghost, as well as more recent Miyazaki anime releases, it will likely be Hi Def DVD before we see another faithful representation of the films excellent visuals. The audio mix is somewhat lacking, however, with very rarely used surrounds.
     
  4. TheLongshot

    TheLongshot Producer

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    Not sure why you say that, considering Manga and Disney respectively did those dvds (and the original GitS DVD was also one of the first anime DVDs to be released, so it is understandable if the transfer is lackluster). Dreamworks is distributing this one, and I thought they pretty good transfer with Millenium Actress.

    Jason
     
  5. Tony_Ramos

    Tony_Ramos Second Unit

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    Jason, if you thoguht that the Miyazaki and previous GitS releases looked good, I don't know what to tell you. I can sight numerous faults with nearly any anime transfer out there, but if they didn't hinder your enjoyment then I'm glad.


    Another problem with Innocence is that the philosophy borders on sophistry, like most anime. Apparently, Director Oshi only reads philosophers that ask questions and not those that have answered them. For instance, the film first asks the question, "do we exist," without noticing that asking the question disproves the premise. something has to exist in order to question its own existence.

    The main philosophical question in the film is whether or not dogs and dolls are any different from humans, or even superior. Apparently, Mr. Oshi has not read any type of behavioral studies on animals which show that they do not notice the passage of time, and have very little creative thought. Mr. Oshi even concedes that animals and dolls are not self-aware through the character of Lin, and supposedly this is what makes them superior. In fact, most of science agrees that animals are governed by pure instinct with occasional emotion, while humans have been shown to be "hard-wired" for higher order thinking skills like language and imagination.

    The film becomes slightly creepy when you realize that Mr. Oshi respects dolls nearly as much as other human life. Fortunately, the characters are somewhat more self-assured, and the ending has some emotional resonance. But it's Mr. Oshi's fondness for self-indulgent pseudo-philosophy that nearly derails the flim halfway through. The fact is, Innocence could have asked all these questions of the audience in much fewer self-important words.
     
  6. Chris Harvey

    Chris Harvey Second Unit

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    I went to see it on a lark with a couple of friends -- I haven't seen the first one.

    I was able to follow the general plot fairly easily, and picked up enough of the backstory from the first film to make sense of things (though I'm sure I missed some subtleties).

    The initial post almost perfectly sums up how I felt about it: I'm glad I saw it, and there are some insanely wonderful visuals and sequels, but also stuff (the Kim bits) that seem practically designed to annoy the audience to frustration.

    The philosophical quoting and endless musing also got old pretty fast. IMHO the Yakuza fight was the highlight of the film, not only for how it was staged but also because Batou just switched off his brooding, musing mode and went into crowd-pleasing kick-ass action. Given how it played out, I kept expecting him to respond to some of the later Kim musings with a wise-crack or something... but no.

    My friends, who enjoyed the first GITS, absolutely hated this. With no prior knowledge, I liked it.... to a point.
     
  7. TheLongshot

    TheLongshot Producer

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    Tony, did you actually read what I wrote? I didn't say anything about the quality of those DVDs, but said that GitS 2 is owned by a different company, so I don't think those comparisons are fair. It is also not fair to assume that Dreamworks will do a poor job with the DVD transfer.

    Course, often those things are out of the hands of US distributors, since they usually use whatever they get handed by Japanese distributors, tho I expect better from newer stuff.

    Jason
     
  8. Tony_Ramos

    Tony_Ramos Second Unit

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    Sorry Jason, I thought that you were defending Disney's transfers on the miyazaki films. they nearly butchered them. They added a red cast to the films, added John Lasseter's intro integrated into the film, didn't clean up enough grime, used excessive filtering, etc etc.
     
  9. Jason Seaver

    Jason Seaver Lead Actor

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    [​IMG][​IMG]¾

    Mamoru Oshii has ideas. They're not his ideas alone, and he's probably a bit behind the Vernor Vinges and Charles Strosses of the world, but Oshii's ideas are grander and more interesting than most of what passes for science fiction in film today. He also has a real talent for bringing the pretty; there are several segments of Innocence that are gorgeous enough to make one wonder why he would ever have been interested in the limitations of live action. What Oshii doesn't have in abundance is the ability to put these ideas and visuals together so that they are not only interesting, but entertaining.

    Take the dialogue. I will forgive a movie like Innocence, which takes place in a future world where technology has transformed many aspects of everyday life, if it is rife with exposition. When that happens, the story is at least supplying you with ideas. Here, though, the audience gets most of the background of the world explained to them with a few screenfuls of text in the opening (which should suffice even if this is one's first exposure to the franchise). What's frustrating about the dialogue is how much of it seems to be quotations, and how many of those quotations are oblique and metaphorical. Aside from how constantly putting someone else's words into the characters' mouths deprives them of having their own voices, I have to wonder whether the passages are common in Japan. After all, I'm reading subtitles so I can see the quotation marks; would a native Japanese speaker just think they were talking nonsense? Not that the "original" dialogue is much better; it varies between the utilitarian and the cliché.

    The story isn't quite as ambitious as the world it's set in - there's been a recent spate of "dolls" (robots with the appearance of humans) killing their owners, in direct contravention of safeguards modeled on Asimov's Three Laws; investigators Batou and Togusa are assigned to the case. The "ghost" or soul of Batou's old partner had disappeared into the net after her body parts were all replaced with synthetics and her mind was augmented with an "E-brain" (which is common); Batou is more cyborg than man now, and the elite force has assigned family man Togusa as a partner in part to monitor him. The investigation involves shooting at some yakuza and the heading to the gigantic (but run-down) city where the dolls' manufacturer is headquartered.

    After a long time holding out, Japan seems to be embracing CGI - almost all of Innocence's backgrounds and vehicles seem to be digitally rendered, while human/cyborg/doll (and canine) characters are primarily hand-drawn. The mix is often distracting, as the characters frequently seem to be lit differently than their environments; sometimes a character's gait doesn't match how quickly they move through a hallway. There are scattered shots that just seem to be showing off, such as an eagle flying close to the camera so that we can see just how much detail was used in rendering its eyes and feathers. The thing is, it doesn't match the rest of the living things we see.

    There are some moments of great character animation, however. Batou's dog is an adorable bassett hound who steals every scene he appears in and buries them in the back yard; if there were an Oscar for "best animated character", the dog would win it hands down. There's a great, tense scene in a convenience store, and a couple of wonderful bits at the end which make up for a lot of the frantic (but relatively unexciting) combat that surrounds them. Oshii also does perhaps the best job in memory of visualizing cyberspace and making a scene that involves hacking suspenseful and active.

    Science fiction has been called the literature of ideas, and Ghost In The Shell 2: Innocence is richer in ideas and images than any two or three recent science fiction movies combined. If it had perhaps spent a little less time ruminating on and philosophizing about these ideas and more time actually exploring them, it could have been one of the year's best movies.
     
  10. Tony_Ramos

    Tony_Ramos Second Unit

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    Couldn't agree more Jason. well done!
     
  11. Ted Lee

    Ted Lee Lead Actor

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    i can sum it up by saying what i told my friend as we were leaving, "if i wanted a philosophy course, i would have signed up for it at school."

    i actually started dozing off during parts (the already mentioned kim dream sequence), which is something i *never* do at the movies. visuals were pretty cool though. the cgi/cel-animation was pretty clean, but there were a few "jerky" spots.

    overall pretty enjoyable, but unless you're an anime fan, you may want to wait for video.

    i give it a C+.
     
  12. Nathan Eddy

    Nathan Eddy Second Unit

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    Which philosophers are you talking about? There are really not many questions that have been definitively answered in philosophy, or at least not fully answered, because each "answer" points to further questions and a need to reexamine the foundational assumptions and the context through which the question arises in the first place. Indeed, Husserl said that philosophy is a process of continuously reexamining one's starting points--which he did with his own work for his entire life. Often just realizing which questions need to be asked and examining the POTENTIAL set of answers--what KINDS of answers are possible--reveals more about our existence than any pithy, simplistic answer can ever reveal. This is perhaps due to a fundamental ambiguity in reality (i.e., perhaps it is ultimately unintelligible) or in the paradoxical relationship between our consciousness and reality--i.e., that our mind can never fully grasp something in which it is embedded and participates in "giving" us.

    Damn, it's hard to talk about this stuff without sounding like a bad anime film.

    I find it promising that people are interested in this stuff, however, because I've written a fantasy novel (for which I'm currently seeking representation) that is a philosophical allegory. But like the rest of you, I'm annoyed by preachy, obvious philosophical exposition that bogs down a story (Matrix II comes to mind). So I've devised a unique way to allow the philosophy to settle into the background, but at the same time infusing the entire world with layers of meaning. If you can give a philsophical "debate" a symbolic counterpart in the actual plot--meaning that the movement of the debate mirrors the movement of the plot and the motivations of the characters--then you can just let the story unfold and SHOW the philosophy, rather than tell it. People's actions and experiences take the place of exposition.

    I wish more "philosophical" movies/stories would be more subtle like this. There are some that do it well (Truman Show, Memento, Adaptation, etc.). But if you're smart enough to deal with philosophical issues as a writer, then you ought to be sophisticated enough to render these ideas in a clever form that engages the audience. Philosophy IS interesting, but we've just seen it handled so poorly that many people are turned off by it.

    I haven't seen this movie, but I plan to. I enjoyed the first one, though I felt it suffered from the problems discused here.
     
  13. Tony_Ramos

    Tony_Ramos Second Unit

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    Nathan, while we can never really "know" anything, most philosophical minds at least agree on the question of whether or not we even exist, which this film asks. And most human beings arrive at a set of answers taht at least allow them to get through the day. Oshii asks so many banal questions I'm not even sure how he can decide what to eat withouth having a nervous breakdown! (Did I choose that, or am I merely perpetuating a system that caused me to choose that, how do I know I have free will to choose that, am I just choosing what I *think* I should choose?) LOL

    Second, the questions are so sophomoric as to be childish. Are dolls and animals as valuable a form of life as humans? Do dolls deserve special respect? Not robots, DOLLS. Oshii is quoted as saying that he thinks dolls are deserving of special respect, and that animals should be treated equally to humans. Behaviorists and psychologists have proven that the animal psyche is merely a collection of instincts and associations of feeling, except perhaps apes, who have some problem solving skills. Dogs certainly do not qualify in this regard.

    The man had this wonderful frontier-pushing science fiction world and chose to focus on the question of whether dolls have souls. Not just robots, DOLLS. The movie is built on mostly faux philosophy.
     
  14. ChristopherDAC

    ChristopherDAC Producer

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    Sorry, I'm an unreconstructed Scholastic, and I really believe we can know at least a part of the truth about the world around us.
    But that's not important to the plot. The movie is set in a world where, as a result of attempting to improve human nature by poorly integrated grafting mechanical contrivances onto it, people have to doubt not only their knowledge of the world around them, but their knowledge of themselves. The dolls and the dog are, if you will, facets of this exploration: are Kim, and Battou, and the being which was the Major, and their ilk, human? more than human? less than human? or, perhaps most frighteningly of all, something radically other than human?
    Anyway Oshii is just playing in somebody else's sandbox. Masamune Shirow's, to be specific.
     
  15. Tony_Ramos

    Tony_Ramos Second Unit

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    Don't get me wrong, I like the movie, I like the science fiction behind it, and I like the questions is raises about cybernetics and what constitutes a soul. I just really *don't* like some of the philosophical discourse, I think it's pointless and possibly insane. Dolls being as intrinsically valuable as a human, in the director's own words?
     
  16. Nathan Eddy

    Nathan Eddy Second Unit

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    Ah, now that's a different problem altogether: leaving silly questions unaswered and pretending that they're profound--as opposed to leaving serious questions unanswered because they are beyond the scope of our reason. I see your point.

    Whether or not we exist is a silly question (I won't even get into the doll question), though the free will issue is still up for grabs. I think that even if you don't present a definitive answer to such a question, you should at least explore the consquences of adopting either position. You're right: it's not enough just to doubt things and poke holes in what people take for granted. I just thought you wanted a neat, tidy answer at the end. But I misread your complaint. I'm looking less forward to seeing this movie the more I read.
     
  17. Doug R

    Doug R Supporting Actor

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    Question regarding this movie:

    Does it spoil Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex?

    I wanna see it as it's in my town this week but I haven't seen all of GitS: SAC and don't want to be spoiled.

    Thanks very much.
     
  18. Tony_Ramos

    Tony_Ramos Second Unit

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    no doug they are completely different. Same company, production IG, but different studios within that company.
     
  19. Chris Woodard

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    To be more specific, the Stand Alone Complex T.V series and the two movies are not in continuity with one another. Essentially the manga (comic) the T.V series, and movies are all different tellings of the same basic concepts and characters, but they do not directly intersect (though the T.V series does reference several things in the original Manga and first film). They are independent story-lines.

    However, the two Ghost in the Shell feature films are heavily linked. This film is a direct sequel to the first Ghost In The Shell feature film. In fact, I think I can safely say that the only way to have anything resembling emotional involvement in the characters of Ghost in The Shell 2, is to be familiar with the first film.
     
  20. Tony_Ramos

    Tony_Ramos Second Unit

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    This is true, the only emotional part is Batou's relationship with the major and you need a little background on that for the climax of the movie to be exciting.
     

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