Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence (2004)

More cerebral than the first film, “Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence” trades in the more action-packed stylings of its predecessor for a more expository, noir-styled format.

The main theme of the film is noticeably different than the first film’s; indeed, in many ways the film distinguishes itself. It’s certainly doesn’t feel like a cash-grab or sequel without any heart. The exploration of the nature of dolls and toys, what really separates humans (and robots, and cyborgs) from the like, is fascinating and often disturbing. If the film settles on any stance, it seems to be that “life” as a definition should be broader than we imagine it (and thus encompass not only cyborgs but robots and even dolls and toys too), and all such “life” should be held as equally valuable.

I very much liked how the film took some of the ideas of the first film (questioning the difference between the programming of a robot and the genetic “programming” of a human and some such) to new places, like the idea that imbibing lifeless beings with value and activity (growing attached to a doll and playing “with” it) bestows upon them some form of life. Some of the dialogue on the nature of children, undeveloped intellectually yet undoubtedly human, was disturbing in its implications. The themes of the film were complex and nuanced, and very thought-provoking.

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The presentation of those themes was not hugely impressive. The dialogue is expository to the point of painfulness. Characters trade quotations from the canon at each other as if it were the most naturalistic dialogue in the world. Conversations often devolve into what feel like characters just acting as mouthpieces for those behind the film. There are some very cinematic moments with appropriate subtlety (the ending and the visually resplendent parade sequence come to mind), but they’re too few and far between.

There’s a strong, fascinating story here, but I don’t think it’s as well-told as it could have been. Still, it has stuck with me even more than its predecessor. I give it four dolls, and a basset hound.

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