Inspiring filmmakers like James Cameron for Avatar and The Wachowski Brothers for the Matrix, Ghost in the Shell (1995) is undoubtedly one of the most influential science fiction stories of all time. The inspiration is evident. Be it in the animation, the character designs, the score, the themes, or its sheer audacity. It almost feels wrong to criticize a movie as influential as this.
Although the film has a story to it, it’s best if considered as a set of events in this futuristic time in Japan. The emphasis is on the setting and the questions being raised by the protagonist through her journey. The film talks a lot about sexual identity, existentialism, traits in humanity, and artificial intelligence. It discusses how the perfect being is far from ideal and that our human imperfections make us evolve. There can be a discussion of far greater length than this review about just the last 20 minutes of the film. Ghost in the Shell is philosophical in the right ways, in that it leaves enough to ponder without beating your mind with propaganda.
The animation is stunning especially considering how complex a futuristic setting can be. All backdrops of the city are shockingly precise, with the use of a grey tone portraying the dystopian setting perfectly. The score is haunting, mostly consisting of Traditional Japanese Music and folk music which works surprisingly well. Technically, this movie is awe-inspiring with nearly every frame meticulously crafted.
The movie does fall behind in one area. The plot itself lacks tension and something to keep you invested. The characters being cyborgs are hard to be invested in which is understandable. But I fail to see why that should be the case with the story as well. The Puppet Master never feels like a big threat and the conclusion to his capture is rather underwhelming. Yes, the movie is well beyond just a simple story of catching a criminal. But if it exists in the film, I expect it to be far more engaging than it was. A film that intends to be more about an atmosphere and philosophy with such a plot can potentially distract you from the real purpose.
Ghost in the Shell (1995) is strikingly atmospheric and deeply philosophical but can potentially divert you with its uneventful plot. With cutting edge animation, bold character design, haunting score, and its sheer fearlessness, it lives up to the praise as one of the most influential animated movies ever made.
Watch Chris Stuckmann’s review of the movie, here.