Friday, March 31, 2017

Movie Review: GHOST IN THE SHELL (1995)

Ghost in the Shell (1995) is an anime classic directed Mamoru Oshii that is an adaptation of a manga of the same name by Masamune Shirow. The film follows Motoko Kusanagi (aka The Major) and her team as part of a security agency known as Section 9 as they track a mysterious hacker known as the Puppet Master. The Japanese language version stars the vocal talents of Atsuko Tanaka, Akio Otsuka, Iemasa Kayumi, Koichi Yamadera, and Tamio Oki. The English dubbed version stars Mimi Woods, Richard Epcar, Tom Wyner, Christopher Joyce, and William Frederick Knight.

Ghost in the Shell is, without a doubt, one of the most influential and well made films in modern science fiction. It is far from a perfect movie, but it thrives on exploring complex themes effectively and being visually brilliant. It stumbles in terms of its pacing at times and is occasionally reliant on complex dialogue to explore its themes rather than having them evolve naturally out of the story.

The most obvious strength in the film is its ability to establish an interesting world that draws you in immediately and provides a space in which you can explore complex themes of what it means to be human. This story is great and manages to find a neat balance of action and think-piece. This is definitely hard to achieve but somehow this story really lent itself to that. I think it’s ability to be really tight in terms of runtime and constantly move from event to event while spouting immense amounts of information at you was really effective. This kind of construction has been incredibly influential in terms of think-y action/sci-fi and for good reason. It works and this film remains engaging on the first watch and many re-watches to come.

The film is also visually incredible. The animation in this film is absolutely jaw-dropping. Whether it was the beautiful artwork for the active camouflage, the subtlety the characters show throughout, or the unforgettable imagery, this film hits it out of the park in terms of animation quality. It also manages to maintain a frenetic action style throughout with its animation which keeps your eyes glued to the screen and consistently intrigued.

I also found the score of Ghost in the Shell to be incredibly haunting and powerful. With unforgettable choral work, this score captivates you and really stands out from most film scores (especially in the science fiction genre). It’s not a bombastic score that you might listen to for fun one day, but it is extremely effecting and did its job perfectly in engaging me with the film.

Outside of those massive strengths, the movie stumbles by feeling weirdly paced and being too dialogue reliant. While it is always forward moving and tight in its runtime, it is a movie that feels much longer than it really is because of how slow some of the in-between moments become. This is especially pronounced in the back half of the film which really makes you tire out into the credits rather that pushing through to the conclusion which hurt my viewing experience.

Overall, this is a great film and one that has rightly been a hugely influential film on many science fiction staples that followed. The complex themes are interesting and you could talk about them for days which is truly the sign of great underlying storytelling. It is also a beautiful anime on top of it all. But for some small pacing issues and excessive reliance on dialogue, this would be a masterpiece and, regardless, it is definitely a film you should seek out and watch.

Ryan’s Score: 8/10

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