Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Ghost in the Shell: The New Movie


Not Rated (probable R for Strong Graphic Violence)

In my experience, anime movies come in two flavors: excellent ("Spirited Away," "Grave of the Fireflies," etc.) and horrid ("Tekkonkinkreet," "Dragonball Z: Resurrection: F," etc.).  The exception, of course, being Hayao Miyazaki's "lesser" efforts like "Lupin the III: The Castle of Cagliostro" or "Porco Rosso."  They may not "work" and lack a coherent plot, but they are still endlessly imaginative and remain watchable.  The same cannot be said about the newest film bearing the "Ghost in the Shell" name.  It's a disaster.

When a movie doesn't take place in our reality, be it horror, sci-fi or fantasy, the filmmakers must build its world.  They must make the setting in which the story takes place seem real, and they must explain how it functions.  If they don't, the movie won't even get off the ground.  At best, it will seem like it's making itself up as it goes along.  At worst, it will be an incoherent mess.  "Ghost in the Machine: The New Movie" is one of the latter.  Imagine, in your darkest nightmares, that when the Wachowski siblings made "The Matrix," they left out any explanation of how the Matrix worked and its relationship to reality.  The resulting movie would be ugly as sin and wouldn't make a lick of sense.  Fortunately, that wasn't the case, but that should give you some idea of what "Ghost in the Shell: The New Movie" feels like.  I spent about 20 minutes trying to figure out what was going on and the rest waiting for the end credits.

The film takes place in the year 2027, right after an unexplained war has ended.  A cyborg named Motoko is tasked with helping to rebuild society.  Her first task is to resolve a hostage situation with her team.  But that's a distraction, and at the same time the Prime Minister and a few others are assassinated in a bombing.  And Motoko and company are fingered as the culprits.

Or something like that.  I'm not sure if the last sentence is true, but the rest of it is.  Sadly, that's as far as I got before I gave up.  There's a lot going on: corporate conspiracies, a military coup, and cyborgs that can communicate telepathically (this effect is cool the first time or two, but it becomes a cheat very quickly).  Unfortunately the film doesn't bother to explain how any of it works or even who is who.  The only one we know by name is Motoko, and a later event in the story makes that moot.

iMDb doesn't list the English voice cast, which is why I didn't identify who voiced what character at the top as I usually do.  Ultimately though, it doesn't matter.  No one stands out.  They just recite badly translated dialogue in monotone.  Granted, they're robots, but it is definitely possible to give a robot personality (see "I, Robot" for an example).

The good news, to the extent that there is any, is that it's better than Funimation's other 2015 release that I saw: the aforementioned "Dragonball Z: Resurrection F."  The story is more engaging (strange as that sounds) and the characters aren't as profoundly irritating.  Plus there are a few jokes that are worth a grin.  But if that sounds like a backhanded compliment, believe me, it is.

1 comment:

  1. I genuinely love GiTS, though I have not yet watched "Arise".
    I've just watched the subtitled version, though not the dubbed one. My impression is that it's nicely put together, though the sound was a bit flat on the technical side.
    However, the story is actually incoherent and doesn't make sense or leave room for mystery. The script writer is too keen to foreshadow the original film, unless they're going down the multiple-continuities line.
    For the record, I loved Innocence. I have found the film rewarded multiple viewings as the cryptic elements of the plot became apparent. Like with the Stand Alone Complex series, the philosophy matters but the plot in the new film doesn't even coherently express the question of "who are we?"

    It feels like a bad RPG scenario from a not-quite skilled enough writer. Those are my thoughts.