Ghost In The Shell 2: Innocence (Japan 2004)

Rating: ***
Review Date: 9/19/04
Director: Mamoru Oshii
Music: Kenji Kawai

A group of new high-tech pleasure androids have started killing their owners, followed by committing suicide. Since Motoko Kusanagi's disappearance in "Ghost In The Shell" (1995), Togusa has become Batou's new partner at Section 9, and the two of them are assigned to the case. What follows is a lengthy philosophical exploration into the nature of Man and what it means to have a soul (or ghost). Is Batou losing his mind, and will he end up going the way the Major did?

Even though it's based on Masamune Shirow's future world and characters, this film is Mamoru Oshii all the way. In fact, it's a little TOO Oshii for my tastes, and is basically a concentrated dose of all his previous efforts. More than anything, it resembles the meandering philosophical police procedural formula of his "Patlabor" movies, and the film is overflowing with visual Ishii touches. The birds, the basset, the long city shots, the color schemes, the long-winded dialog, the challenging pace, they're all here. While I used to think the basset was a cute and clever inside joke, films like "Innocence" and "Avalon" (2001) feature the loveable hound WAY too much. "Innocence" is VERY heavy on brain-bashing dialog, making it a challenge to sort out and comprehend in a single viewing. Whereas the original "Ghost In The Shell" had a moderate amount of action and saved the heavy philosophizing for the end of the movie, "Innocence" is essentially action free until the very end of the film.

Visually the film is stunning and makes excellent use of both computer generated and hand drawn animation. The character design and overall look is identical to the first film, except that there's more focus on retro technology (for example, all of the cars in the movie are curiously anachronistic). The structure and story progression are also very similar to the first film, and Kenji Kawai's music score is nearly identical. An interesting, but tedious film that could have and should have been less obtuse. Or maybe I just found it less engaging because it didn't focus on a kick-ass woman in the lead role.