Chris Kavan's Movie Review of Ghost in the Shell ( Kôkaku kidôtai )

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Ghost in the Shell ( Kôkaku kidôtai )

After 25 Years - The Impact is Stronger Than Ever
Chris Kavan - wrote on 08/02/07

It's hard to imagine a film dealing with issues relating to technology, politics and even the nature of the soul could be as relevant as when it was released as it is today. But after having viewed the 25th Anniversary Edition of Ghost in the Shell I can wholeheartedly say it has more than withstood the test of time - it has probably even gotten better with age.

As the booklet it was packed with informs me, Ghost in the Shell was released the same year as Pixar's Toy Story. This could be considered the fledgling age of CGI in film. Ghost in the Shell uses it in a much more nuanced way - mixing traditional animation in with the computer-enhanced effects. And the Blu-Ray transfer looks amazing. But while the visuals help with the overall effort, it's really the story and the way it portrays technology really shine.

Ghost in the Shell is the cyberpunk classic. I'm an unabashed anime fan to the core and there are a handful of films I consider essential. There is Akira - the film that started off a revolution. There is Grave of the Fireflies - an emotional journey to rival any live-action film I have seen. And there is Ghost in the Shell - which marries visual effects and a profound story that reverberates to this day. So what is it about the film that makes it so good?

One, this came out in 1995 and it's amazing to see how technology today has gotten eerily close to how things are portrayed. Although we still don't have cyborgs out running around - some of the technology seen - thermoptic camouflage (making the user pretty much invisible) is not quite the same thing as a "real life invisibility cloak" but it's close to reality, the glasses the characters wear that give off all sorts of information is close to Google Glass (with a military application) but the aspect the film really hit on the head is how reliant our world has become on computerization. Smart phones, social networks and the internet in general - just think how often you use the web on a daily basis. The film takes a much more grim outlook (shades of Blade Runner) of this future.

The film was a major influence - most notably on The Matrix - but it has obviously inspired a whole generation as well. It has spawned a sequel, a TV series (Stand Alone Complex) and, most recently, Arise. The spirit is alive and well - but make not mistake, this animation is not for kids. Unlike the family-friendly Pixar, this is full of violence (lots of shootouts and cybernetic limbs and heads being torn off) and nudity (the main character, Motoko Kusanagi - a cyborg herself) isn't afraid to strip down for her missions.

But beyond the technology, the film also delves into something on a much deeper level - the soul. The film asks if a cyborg can have a soul - and if an Artificial Intelligence can reproduce. One of the most memorable scenes is a quote taken directly from the Bible (I Corinthians 13 to be exact) and it is used in such a way that you can't help but be moved. Ghost in the Shell works on so many different levels that no matter how many times you have seen it, it never loses its impact.

The film may have been a trip down memory lane - but it just goes to show that with age brings wisdom - what I see now is more than just the surface level and it amazes me of just how well-rounded the film is - from visual to story to characters - it is a must-watch for not just anime fans, but those who enjoy film in general.

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