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R2 DVD Reviews
Tuesday, 17 January 2006 00:00
Ghost in the Shell - Cover ArtWith Stand Alone Complex being in danger of becoming one of my favourite shows, it made sense to go back and take a look at the first animated outing for the Major and Section Nine - 1995's Ghost in the Shell movie.  Perhaps surprisingly, given how poorly movie-to-series adaptations are done sometimes, it seems the series has done a damn good job of staying true to its roots...

Picture the future, where the 'net has become such a key component of life that many people live a substantial part of their existence in the virtual world, where artificial intelligence programs  have become almost indistinguishable from the real thing.  Major Motoko Kusanagi is the commander of Section 9, a government counter-terrorist unit that makes use of the 'net to carry out their operations, and it's an area she has plenty of experience in - she is, after all, the remnant of a human soul housed in a full-replacement cyborg body.  Modern technology makes it possible to hack directly into a person's brain and take control of them, and a hacker known as the Puppet Master hs been making use of this ability.  His current targets seems to be those connected with upcoming aid talks bettwen the Japanese government and the country of Gavel, and Section 9 have been brought in to track him down - but the Puppet Master is smart, and his methods mean finding him is no easy job...

Ghost in the Shell - A quiet moment for MotokoGhost in the Shell - Checking position

Ghost in the Shell - Under interrogationGhost in the Shell - Motoko and Batou

Away from the (visually excellent, especially for a 1995 film) action side of the story, the real focus of GitS is an examination of what it means to be human.  The Major arguably isn't, but although she's fully aware of what she is she's convinced she has as much right to be considered human as anyone else.  Certainly she seems as human as any other character in the movie, and her team treat her as such. The parts of the movie that deal with this side of things are quite slow-moving and need to be paid attention to - especially since "ghosts", the soul of a human and what makes them human, form a fairly key part of the story.  The picture becomes even more confused after the Puppet Master - who is revealed to be "merely" a self-aware computer program - requests political asylum.

Ghost in the Shell - Puppet Master's new bodyGhost in the Shell - Messy ending

Ghost in the Shell - One woman versus a tankGhost in the Shell - Memory transfer

This incarnation of Ghost in the Shell is maybe a little dark for my liking - at heart I'm more of an action fan, and the philosophical examination of "humanity" that GitS indulges in gets in the way of that a bit.  SAC does still have that aspect, but based on what I've seen of 2nd Gig so far it's not as high-profile a part of the series - it's more focussed on the action side of things.

Curiously, the movie ends with the Major going on the run - I'm curious to see how she ends up back with Section 9 for Stand Alone Complex, as it looks like some fairly significant setup work will be required.  As for the movie, it's definitely worth checking out, but be prepared for some slower moments which may spoil the flow for some.

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