As with the previous film in this series, “The Laughing Man”, this is a compilation of the arc-heavy episodes of the television show “Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex”, in this case the second season, called “2nd Gig”. It does not take place in continuity with the 1995 and 2004 Ghost in the Shell films I greatly enjoyed, and is a different take and adaptation, while sharing many characters and ideas.
While there are still plenty of pacing issues present from trying to collapse a long season into a single film, I found this a much better watch than “The Laughing Man”. The plot and villain are more compelling, and have more nuance while being less confusing and overtly complex. “Individual Eleven” falls less into the shadow of the 1995 film, moving away from the more metaphysical concerns to deliver a more politically-charged story. It works well. “The Laughing Man” struggled to meld the more simplistic action-approach of the television show with the philosophical stylings of the 1995 film, but “Individual Eleven” feels like the team behind the show felt more comfortable and struck out with their own particular approach. The moments where it does try to weave in religious imagery or allude to complex philosophies don’t work very well, but the more character-based storytelling does. If only some of the more standalone character-focused episodes from the season could have made their way into the film too.
Interestingly, the plot is in many ways an inversion of the 1995 film’s. Rather than the antagonist’s plans revolving around a digital entity manifesting into physical reality, the villain here concocts schemes based around transposing physical entities to the digital realm. The refugee angle feels undercooked, like a question raised without being followed through, but works well enough.
Some of the flaws of “The Laughing Man” carry over, like the Major being in outfits not really fitting with the tone of the world, but “Individual Eleven” has greater character focus on the Major, which balances it out in many ways. Her backstory is handled deftly, as is the villain’s. The Tachikoma robots continue to be highlights (it’s such a shame their enormously entertaining minisodes didn’t find some way into the film adaptation).
It’s nowhere near as powerful or thought-provoking as the 1995 film, but “Individual Eleven” feels like a film in its own right, not a half-baked mishmash the way “The Laughing Man” sometimes did. I give it three spider tachikomans, and a porcelain mask.