Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence
2004
Writer-director Mamoru Oshii's animated thriller concocts a complex follow-up to his monster hit, Ghost in the Shell. It's now 2032, and machines and people have grown so similar they're virtually interchangeable. The fate of the human race hangs in the balance, and a robot with human tendencies, Batou, is the only one who's able to decipher why humanity has lost its allure. When he figures out the answer, he'll face life's ultimate questions.

Scott Hardie: “It was ok.”

Success has had a predictable effect on Mamoru Oshii: With each project, he is more free to explore the philosophical questions that fascinate him, without needing to justify them as entertainment. At its best, "Innocence" is a rumination about the human need to create life in its own image: We make dolls for our children so they can practice making their own human offspring, but the rise in artifical intelligence might someday force the question of whether dolls want to be created in human likeness. Oshii's thoughts on the matter are well portrayed, even if he does rely too much on quotes from Descartes and Confucious and Milton, but the real problem with his latest film is that it's just no fun to watch. Oshii comes up with such interesting musings that his film should feel like a rush of discovery and curiosity, or at the very least it should have some more humor or action or drama to keep things lively, but the film is paced like a forced march through drudgery, making his philsophy as appealing to consume as cold, dry spinach.

It doesn't help that the visuals are so incongruous. Oshii and his team labored at length to create their beautiful CGI world, so textured and realistic, but the effect is ruined whenever the film's characters appear in it. Drawn in traditional 2-D animation style with minimal detail, they never even remotely look like they belong in the same film as the lush 3-D backgrounds. I don't know if Production I.G. had the budget or technology to animate the main characters in 3-D CGI, but that would have been preferable. Still, the film is gorgeous when it simply evokes its 3-D metropolis in haunting detail, with the centerpiece being a dreamlike mansion filled with images suggested by religion and philosophy and made real on the screen to eerie effect. It's a movie worth seeing for filmgoers satisfied by beautiful images alone, but the story isn't told with enough enthusiasm to make it worthwhile to anyone else.

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