Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence
2004Director: Mamoru Oshii
Cast: Akio Otsuka, Atsuko Tanaka, Koichi Yamadera
t’s been nearly a decade since the original Ghost in the Shell movie came out, and a lot has changed between that film and this one¾most notably my perception of animé films in general. I don’t want to say that I’ve outgrown them because I don’t believe animation is something you necessarily outgrow. However, I no longer find the pop-philosophy of these films as profound as I did at age seventeen.
Therefore, the gaudy, pretentious sequel to Ghost in the Shell represents a new extreme in shallow philosophical science fiction. That being said, I’d be willing to forgive it if it had been a mindless action film (the mistake most sequels make), but instead it attempts to be some sort of brooding psychological thriller with no thrills and very little actual psychology.
The film takes place in the year 2032. Bateau, a human who has undergone so many modifications that he is practically a cyborg, and his partner Togusa are investigating a series of brutal murders in which robots manufactured to service the sexual needs of their masters suddenly go berserk and begin killing at random.
Arnold Schwarzenegger chilling with one of the Thompson Twins.
Much like in the original film, these murders go far beyond a simple malfunctioning line of robots, and the plot screams conspiracy. Sure, the conspiracy plotline is a bit worn out (especially since I, Robot came out only a few months earlier), but at least it has the potential to be entertaining.
However, instead of devoting the majority of the film to unraveling said conspiracy, Oshii opts to digress into meaningless rhetoric for nearly 70 minutes of the film’s 100 minute runtime. If you recall, the first film was dialogue heavy, but there was a sense that it was charting out its own theories instead of simply regurgitating the words of others. Innocence quotes everything from Milton to Descartes to the Old Testament, but adds nothing to these quotes. Watching it is like attending a writer’s workshop party and being the only one present who wants to engage in actual conversation.
I have no qualms with films that seek to be intelligent, even aggressively so. Take Godard¾he was always quoting from various texts or other films, but it added something to his already unique style that made certain statements about the cinematic craft. Oshii, on the other hand, uses his quotes as a crutch to help lurch his clunking story forward.
When we finally do reach some sort of climactic showdown, it’s no longer worth the wait, and even though Oshii has Bateau battling an army of psychotic sexbots, it never really becomes as amusing as it may sound.
What went wrong in the ten years between the two films? Maybe Oshii was too intent on making an unconventional sequel that he simply disregarded any notion of making an entertaining one. I’ve seen experimental films that I found less abrasive. Hell, Wavelength was more engaging than this. But those films were made with a specific audience in mind. Innocence has been released by a major studio which suggests that it was meant as some sort of crossover animé. Instead, many will walk out of this completely baffled and wanting their money back.
"Let's see if I can read this. Hmm...tuna roll, five dollars..."
Incidentally, seeing the original film offers little in the way of explaining this mess other than providing some back story to Major Kusanagi’s disappearance and the nature of Section 9 (the organization under which Bateau operates) both of which are left virtually unexplained in this film.
The film is not without its moments though. I particularly liked the relationship between Bateau and his pet dog, which is perhaps the most accurately depicted dog to ever appear in an animated film. Though, I can’t say that I entirely understood its purpose in this film.
In addition, the film is superbly animated; it contains some of the best integration of computer graphics and hand-drawn animation I’ve ever seen. And while that’s no small achievement, it does little to mask the fact that Innocence is ultimately a bad movie. The same thing occurred when the sequel to Vampire Hunter D came out over two decades after the original. The animation had obviously advanced well beyond its predecessor’s, but the story somehow lost its edge. God help us if they ever try to release a sequel to Akira.