Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence - Mania.com



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Mania Grade: C-

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Info:

  • Audio Rating: A
  • Video Rating: A+
  • Packaging Rating: C+
  • Menus Rating: B-
  • Extras Rating: A-
  • Age Rating: 13 & Up
  • Region: 1 - North America
  • Released By: Dreamworks
  • MSRP: 29.99
  • Running time: 100
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Ghost in the Shell

Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence

By Chris Beveridge     January 14, 2005
Release Date: December 28, 2004


Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence
© Dreamworks


What They Say
In 2032, the line between humans and machines has blurred almost beyond distinction. Humans have virtually forgotten what it means to be entirely human in both body and spirit, and the few humans that are left coexist with cyborgs (human spirits inhabiting entirely mechanized bodies) and dolls (robots with no human elements at all).

Batou is a cyborg. His body is artificial: the only remnants left of his humanity are traces of his brain and the memories of a woman called The Major.

A detective for the government's covert anti-terrorist unit, Public Security Section 9, Batou is investigating the case of a gynoid - a hyper-realistic female robot created specifically for sexual companionship - who malfunctions and slaughters her owner.

As Batou delves deeper into the investigation, questions arise about humanity's need to immortalize its image in dolls. Together, Batou and his partner must take on violent Yakuza thugs, devious hackers, government bureaucrats and corporate criminals to uncover the shocking truth behind the crime.

The Review!
A decade after the first movie took US fandom by storm while leaving the Japanese fairly ambivalent at best, Mamoru Oshii is back with the sequel to one of the biggest releases that crossed into the mainstream.

Audio:
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this show in its original language of Japanese and in the provided 5.1 mix for it. For various reasons, DreamWorks did not dub this movie so the only language available is the Japanese one and it's provided in both a stereo and a 5.1 mix. A commentary track by the director is also provided in a stereo format. In listening to the 5.1 mix, it's definitely a very full and enveloping mix during the action sequences but it also does a great job of keeping the sounds very distinct and well placed during the quieter moments. Some of them were so low that we couldn't hear them however even with the sound turned up to reference levels. During regular playback, we had no issues with dropouts or distortions on the 5.1 mix which is the only one we listened to all the way through.

Video:
Originally in theaters in 2004, the transfer for this film is presented in its original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. When it comes to theatrical prints, especially ones like this where so much money was funneled into it, the depth of colors and blacks and the amount of detail is so high that at times it's almost overwhelming. In doing comparison's between our 23" HDTV set and the 50" HDTV set, there is still a noticeable difference in the quality level as so much more is just visible on the larger set and the bigger canvas only helps to draw you in more to the visuals. The transfer here is just stunning throughout with only one area that was noticeably bad but is likely a source problem; when Batou goes underwater and the ship zips by, there's an area where the black of the ship is shifting into the red water behind it and the way they digitally created this has a mixture of blocking and gradient issues but it's not due to the authoring of the DVD but rather how the scene was created. Even still, this is for little more than a couple of seconds of screen time and is negligible in the long run.

Packaging:
Probably one of the weakest aspects of this release is the rather ugly looking cover artwork chosen, which is only a few steps below the bland and lifeless Japanese versions that I've seen. The front cover has very brightly colored characters from the film that don't fit in with the dark feel of the story set against a far too bright looking city in the background that again doesn't fit well. When it comes to films, the preference is always for the theatrical poster artwork to be used but unfortunately that no longer flies well with marketing executives so it's not surprising to see this kind of cover that was probably literally tossed together. The back cover fairs a bit better with a few shots from the show ringing around a paragraph that talks up the hype of the film and provides some quotes and lists the discs features. The technical information is all clearly listed along the bottom providing you can make out the badly chosen color of blue against black. Like a number of recent DreamWorks releases, there is no insert included in this release.

Menu:
The menus used for the release are decent though I think they give away a couple of neat moments before you even see the show so I'm not too happy with them but that's again not uncommon with a number of Hollywood menus. With clips from the show playing across the entire screen, the selections line along the left and are quick and easy to navigate and access. Submenus load quickly with no real transitional animations and moving about is very intuitive and problem free. The disc also correctly read our players' language preset selections on start-up.

Extras:
While not packed, there are some solid extras included here. The big extra for fans of films like this is the directors commentary with Oshii. Having listened to a number of commentaries by him in the past couple of years, this one doesn't really disappoint in getting into his head for what he's trying to get across and what they all went through in creating this film. While I don't always agree or like his works, he is a fascinating person to listen to with a long and rich history in this industry. Also included is a behind the scenes/making of feature from the Japanese release that runs just under sixteen minutes and goes into a lot of the creative aspects of the film, particularly of the music. Also included is a Japanese trailer for the film. Comparing to the Japanese releases, the only thing I can see that's not included is a conversation between by Oshii and Toshio Suzuki and probably more trailers of varying types and lengths.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Even before this title was released to home video, the controversy raged around it. For whatever reasons they had, no dub was produced for this film. This is a real shame since it would expand the viewing audience, particularly if they had used the same cast as the original film, but the currently running TV series being released gives them access to another cast that's very intimate with the characters and could have turned in some wonderfully subdued performances here. The lack of the dub will certainly keep a lot of people away from this and it's unfortunate that DreamWorks didn't look at this release as more than just an art house/foreign film release.

With the discs release, another controversy brewed and that came with the subtitles. Though meager replies from DreamWorks seems to indicate that it's on purpose, the English language subtitles are a combination of accurate subtitles as closed captions. For some, this sent them to the hills with their pitchforks and apparently made it completely unwatchable. I'll say it up front that I don't care for it to be done this way as that's not what anime subtitling is about and I wish they hadn't done it. But at the same time, I watch so many Hollywood regular movie releases and TV series sets that only supply close captioned subtitles that it doesn't bother me like it will a lot of other people. Watching Dodgeball, yep, only CC subtitles. The Terminal? Yep, CC subtitles. Bourne Supremacy? Yep, CC subtitles. So just to emphasize – I do not like it with anime releases but it does not bother me because I'm used to it from several years worth of DVD viewing with subtitles always on if provided.

While debate over that rages, very few people are actually talking about the movie itself, which is a shame. Coming as long after the original movie and following it up along one vein, it's not quite the same as what's come before. Whereas that was a deep philosophical piece that had people like the Major questioning her humanity and what was left of it as she gave her life over to the mechanical side of things, this one has her long gone into the net and Batou not quite an unfeeling callous man without her but someone who isn't quite at home in dealing with others even more than he used to be. While she wasn't exactly human anymore, she was someone that could draw out the humanity in him, particularly his sense of humor. But with her now a part of the net itself, what little humanity he had seems to have withered away and he's simply a man doing his job for Section 9.

Naturally, when Togusa gets assigned to work with Batou on a case where a series of gynoid robots have been going crazy and killing their owners or whoever was nearby, he's not exactly pleased by it. Batou's not someone anyone else in Section 9 could work easily with on a number of levels, personality being a big one. In their initial research they learn of the robots that they're being built by a company who has almost seemingly come out of nowhere to achieve a reputation as quality work with some very addictive dolls. To ensure the sanctity of their operations though, they work out of a large ship that's kept in international waters so they're not kept to the same restrictions as a number of Japanese based companies. Batou's drawn deeper into things before he even knows about the case though when someone takes over his brain and causes him to shoot out his own arm and nearly kill a shopkeeper.

With their investigation being somewhat off the official record at first, Batou leads Togusa to finding an old friend of his from back in the war days that has gone into making himself a next level kind of construct where he's more than he ever was but also far less human. Figuring that his deep connections within the underworld and in the information layer of the net as well will give him some clues, it's another stop along the way to figuring out just what this mysterious off-shore company is really up to before the gynoid dolls can kill again. It's really a very straightforward plot that has Batou and Togusa doing what they do best in an investigative manner.

Why does it fall so short then? In watching this film with it's nearly two hour running time, why did I feel at the end that it was little more than a really expanded filler episode for the TV series and that the TV series has done far more interesting filler episodes? Don't get me wrong here though, the visuals for this film are simply amazing. The opening sequence does a beautiful job of showing how far digital animation has come in ten years by recreating the same opening we saw in the first film back in 1994 but with much more advanced and seamless techniques. It most definitely places that film into the dustbin in terms of visuals. Much of the meshing of CG and animation is fairly well done here, though some of it stands out poorly such as when the pair are walking through Kim's mansion and their movements are very awkward and don't blend well. But then you correspond it with scenes of the far east information city they go into with its spires and towers that are just gorgeous to look at. Or the festival moving through the streets that is so incredibly rich in detail and vibrant in its colors. It's such a visual feast that there is almost more to take in than possible with how its done. So no, it's no surprise that this film is for the most part a technical and visual marvel.

Where the real problem comes in is in the dialogue. Much of it is kept between Batou and Togusa as they perform their investigation, which really covers the first three quarters of the film. It's generally a slow paced piece which is more than fine, but it's filled with banter between the two where they're constantly quoting all sorts of religious or philosophical lines and using them as the way to advance the story. While I won't say that the dialogue between these two made me feel stupid nor lectured to by the pair, it did leave me watching a highly unnatural method of discussion between two investigators. It seemed like Oshii wanted to make each and every line, every word, have such great dramatic weight to it that it would come across almost like a Greek play or an opera in a way. If it wasn't for the incredible performances that Akio Ohtsuka as Batou and Kouichi Yamadera as Togusa put in with their distinctive natures this would have been even more difficult to get through.

And unfortunately, the film is difficult to get through. The plot is so linear in nature and easily projected from the get go that at times you feel like the characters are a couple of steps behind where they should be because of all of that dialogue. I didn't go into this looking for an action piece because the first movie was much the same in a way, but it also had the draw of the Major herself, someone who is very much missing from most of this film. Batou is a very interesting character and the writers of the TV series have managed to showcase that on several occasions, but I don't think he's a character that can carry a full length theatrical piece like this and with as heady a discussion as they all want to go on about here.

In Summary:
A visual and technical masterpiece that will certainly show off just how far anime has come since its predecessor, Ghost in the Shell: Innocence unfortunately is a very formulaic story that's so highly infused with religious and philosophical discourses that they seemingly forgot to put in dialogue for much of the plot. There's no denying that this is a beautiful looking film, rich in its vibrancy as well as the dark nature, but too many of the elements from the first film are brought to replay here and they're the elements that to many didn't make the first film work as well as it should. When all is said and done and I find that many of the filler episodes of the TV series are much more engaging on a wider variety of levels, the film has left me disappointed and not eager to watch again anytime soon.

Features
Japanese 5.1 Language,Japanese 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,Filmmaker's commentary, The Making of Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence,Theatrical trailer

Review Equipment
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Zenith DVB-318 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player via DVI with upconversion set to 720p, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.

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jnager 3/13/2012 2:58:19 PM

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