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Thursday, April 16, 2009

Ghost in the Shell 2. Innocence. Manga Entertainment . DVD (2004)

The opening scene announces the visual ambition of the film, which is amply achieved both in the superbly choreographed action sequences as well as the more reflective moments. The is a great sequel to Ghost in the Shell, it exceeds its predecessor in visual flair while not quite matching it in the strength of its ideas. It still towers a head and shoulders above most science fiction film, animated or live action in its willingness to create a context for its ideas.

Sex robots, prototypes given to influential customers, are killing their owners and running amok before self-destructing. The possibility that this could be a terrorist campaign, some of the victims are politically connected, brings Section 9 into the fray. Batou, a cyborg who had been the Major's partner, leads the investigation. The trail leads from a shoot out at a gang headquarters, Batou being hacked, to a city on the frontier that had once been designed as the most important data centre in Asia to a final confrontation on a floating factory and the re-appearance of the Major.

The story is well told, the action is staged with great skill with the cityscapes as well as the smaller and more intimate spaces of offices and apartments beautifully detailed. It strongly resembles an animated Blade Runner in the the shape of the city and the neon glow of the streets. There is a breathtaking parade staged in the frontier city that echoes a sequence in the first film, neither advanced the story in any way yet are essential to the total picture.

The film fails when it tries to engage in philosophical ruminations about the blurring difference between people and machines. The ideas are not articulated with skill and are poorly integrated into the flow of the film, they reflect the ambition of the visuals without their craft or flair. Ultimately they are a minor blemish on a stunning achievement.

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