mag·nif·i·cent/magˈnifəsənt/ (adj.)

1. Impressively beautiful, elaborate, or extravagant; striking.
2. Very good; excellent.

Synonyms: splendid - gorgeous - grand - superb - glorious

WARNING: Some spoilers may be bound but I try to keep them light.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Ghost in the Shell (1995)

"I just have a whisper... from my ghost."

Ghost in the Shell (1995) known in japan as GHOST IN THE SHELL/攻殻機動隊 (literally Ghost in the shell - Mobile Armored Riot Police), is one of the most well known anime films of all time. It's based on the manga Mobile Armored Riot Police (called Ghost in the Shell in America) written and illustrated by Masamune Shirow.

Major Motoko Kusanagi is a cyborg that works for Section 9, a Japanese government agency focusing on counter-terrorism. The film revolves around Motoko and Secion 9 hunting a dangerous hacker known only as "The Puppet Master," because of his tendency to hack into people's brains and cause them to then hack into corporations and government agencies.

I really like how simple the story is in this film, despite all the complexities of the world and technology the plot is surprisingly easy to follow. I love the Puppet Master and think he is absolutely fascinating and I really enjoy how open ended the ending of this film is.

Also the complex characters in this film are surprisingly well set up. I love how Motoko seems cold and robotic a lot of the time, yet she's late to work and impatient (two things you wouldn't associate with someone who is mostly hardware) and as the film goes on and she talks to Batou (her only real friend) you realize she's a cyborg with a lot of really deep stuff on her mind constantly. I love the little bit about the irony of her loving to go diving, this is absolutely beautiful to me.

There is a bit of "technobabble" in this film that will probably turn off some first time viewers, but I've got to say that actually most of it makes sense to me after seeing this film many, many times over the years.

One of the things I love most about this movie is how well developed the world seems. It has loads of well thought-out technology (down to elaborate elevator door closing mechanisms) combined with a very lived-in feel much like the Star Wars movies were well known for, this is true cyberpunk and it makes for a very awesome film to watch.

Adapting the Mobile Armored Riot Police manga into a film must have seemed like a dream project for Mamoru Oshii. The manga is loaded with lots of really deep philosophy and the unique world and characters that seem perfect for an Oshii film. His direction in this movies is really wonderful, down to the little things like imagining what it would look like in a first person view to switch from one body to another.

In a very Oshii fashion, and shot in a very similar way to the Taiwan montages in StrayDog: Kerberos Panzer Cops (1991), the film has multiple montages that are absolutely stunning at showing off the world and establishing the mood of the film these are set to the magnificent soundtrack by Kenji Kawai which uses a Japanese folk song choir singing in an ancient form Japanese mixed with Bulgarian harmony and traditional Japanese notes, it's very memorable and uniquely beautiful.

Ghost in the Shell (1995) is a truly great animated film, it's a really beautiful film with stunning visuals and a very thought-provoking story. I absolutely love it. 5/5 Stars.

Happy watching!

All this week, I am continuing to review the films of acclaimed Japanese director Mamoru Oshii. If you missed it be sure to go back and check out my review of The Red Spectacles (1987) and my review of it's sequel StrayDog: Kerberos Panzer Cops (1991) and the amazing meta-film Talking Head (1992).

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