Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence
Science Fiction

Directed by Mamoru Oshii, the man behind Jin-Roh and the original Ghost in the Shell, this sequel follows the events of the first movie, taking a variant path in the storyline than the Ghost in the Shell 2 manga. While those familiar with the GitS universe (which includes two manga series, videogames, the first movie and a television series) are used to seeing Major Motoko Kusanagi as the main character, Innocence provides a different perspective. At the end of the first film, the Major's ghost (or soul) had merged with an artificial intelligence and she was now somewhere in the sea of information that the world thrives on. This leaves her partner, Batou, who is far more machine than man anymore, to go on without her.

Batou, who is partnered up with the mostly human family-man Togusa, is drawn into a series of murders by sex-toys known as dolls, who proceed to kill their owners in a deranged act of murder/suicide. Even from the beginning of the story, things are strange and off-kilter, leading down a confusing path of conspiracy which finds Batou dealing with a cadre of hyper-violent dolls and children being used to give ghosts to these machines. Those familiar with the manga series will find a lot of elements pulled straight from the books.

Visually, Innocence is a masterpiece of animation, both hand-drawn and computer generated. Overall, the movie has a lush detail that in itself proves to be a huge bit of overstimulation. Sequences with the computer generated environments are exceptionally impressive, especially when the camera moves fluidly along the path, giving the film a more realistic feel to it, instead of being forced into specific angles for the bulk of the story. Innocence has a certain Blade Runner draw to it, in both visual style and pacing. In fact, I would have to say that this film is as close to Blade Runner as we've seen in a long time.

The DVD comes only in the Japanese voice-acting with English subtitles, which is actually a bit of a surprise as I would have thought that the English cast from the first film could have made a return. But, with that said, the Japanese VA is still excellent, though with the massive amount of dialog, one will have to pay serious attention to the subtitles to catch all of the script. And, Innocence is one of those films where if you miss something minor, you may be lost.

Because I am a huge fan of Masamune Shirow (who created the GitS series), I'm pretty much used to tons of exposition in his works. Many of his works almost require re-reading to really gather in all the content he tries to express. With that said, Innocence is just too much. I can't directly blame Shirow, because Mamoru Oshii was pretty much given free reign on this film, but I'm sure the over-the-top content of the story follows Shirow's modus operandi to a "T". There is so much conversation and content that very little action occurs in the story. There are a few action sequences, but most of this is bogged down in philosophy and once you get to Locus Solus, you may just grow tired of it all.

If you can't tell by now, Innocence is certainly not for everyone. It's a gorgeous movie that's extremely slow and features way too much conversation that feels like it doesn't go anywhere. If someone had hacked up the script some and just gotten to the point once in a while, the story would have felt less like a chore and more interesting. Still, with that said, fans of Ghost in the Shell should be sure to watch this. Just don't expect Motoko Kusanagi to show up for more than a few minutes, and that's in the body of a doll she's hacked into.

- - Vane

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