Critic Armond White has held the Matrix films liable for our film culture’s aesthetic shrinkage—but if you want to get technical, Mamoru Oshii’s seminal The Ghost in the Shell is really to blame. Oshii’s 1995 manga imagined an all-tits-no-brains virtual world inhabited by augmented human lives and supervised by downloadable crime enforcement officers. Things run smoothly in this futuristic landscape until a secret agent (the titular ghost) becomes conscious of its existence and demands political asylum from its creator. These ghosts (in essence, the glitches in their respective film’s matrixes) would crop up again in Oshii’s visually inventive anime/live-action hybrid Avalon, an overly conceptualized psych session concerned with the meaning of reality in a technological video-game world where modern day Prague represents a kind of bonus level. Nine years after Ghost in the Shell comes Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence, the story of Batou, a law enforcement android, and his mostly-human partner, Togusa, and their journey to destroy a sexy brand of “gynoid” committing suicide by cutting up humans. From seedy back alleys to dioramic castles in waterlogged netherworlds, Oshii engages his main characters in a running debate on the nature of reality and self-mechanization via their countless run-ins with a series of dolls and lowlifes. Oshii is largely concerned with the obsolescence of the human race, and some of Innocence’s more frightening, jaw-dropping sequences imagine a synergy of the real and the artificial. Oshii’s attention to detail is ravishing and his distractions of time and space evoke what it must be like to be trapped within the confines of M.C. Escher’s “Sky and Water.” Pity then that Innocence is so impenetrable, both aesthetically and philosophically. However stunning some of the film’s set pieces may be, the whole of this multi-minded, spectacularly obtuse creation seems as if its been loosely connected by simplistic philosophical principles linking sex, technology, politics, violence, and human determinism. Though Oshii is clearly fascinated by our fixation with replicating human life, the film’s rambling philosophical ruminations on simulation and mechanization are wearisome at best, and because the film’s aesthetic technology is more pervasive than its actual heart, the film may leave some thinking less about life and more about the firewall on their computer’s virus protection software. One could say that Innocence thinks so much that it ultimately has very little to say.
- Mamoru Oshii
- Mamoru Oshii
- Akio Ôtsuka, Atsuko Tanaka, Kôichi Yamadera, Tamio Ôki, Yutaka Nakano, Naoto Takenaka, Hiroaki Hirata, Yoshiko Sakakibara, Masaki Terasoma
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