DVD REVIEW: Ghost in the Shell 2.0 – Enhanced Original Is Entertaining But Is It Really Necessary?

GITS2.0 Box

I love Ghost in the Shell, its sequel, Ghost in the Shell: Innocence and the two seasons of the GitS TV series [all available here on DVD]. The original Ghost in the Shell was filled with great ideas and set in a world that, other than the cyber-technology, looked a lot like this one. Part of the fun – and what made the piece as thought-provoking – was the way that the familiar served as a base for action, philosophical musing and intriguing characters.

In the year 2029, it is possible to replace any and all parts of the human body with artificial parts – including the brain. Unfortunately, with many top-ranking political and military leaders having had cyber-work done on them, it’s also possible for an adept enough hacker to actually hack their brains! One such adept, dubbed The Puppet Master, has been so successful that two sections of Japan’s multi-levelled government security system have been i8nvestigating him/her/it.

GitS 2.0 takes the original film and enhances it [their description] by adding CG in many ways – the lead agent of Section 9, Major Motoko Kasanagi, has been completely rendered in CG; various computer screens and other effects have been completely remodelled – mostly to an almost overbearing effect, and the film’s entire palette has shifted from greens and blues to browns and oranges.

While the story remains the same – and the film still asks questions about the nature of life, ethics, and the existence of souls – the change in its physical presentation seems awkward, especially when The Major interacts with characters who remain in 2D, like her right-hand man, Batou.

The film is still breathtaking on every level – for the most part, the integration of 3D and 2D animation works, and the ideas are just as powerful as ever – but I have to ask why it was necessary to do this. While the changes were overseen by GitS director Mamoru Oshii, it really doesn’t being anything new to the story in any other way but the physical. It’s like when George Lucas went back and “enhanced” the first three Star Wars movies. Sure, it looked different – and more up-to-the-minute in terms of tech, but its cool factor dropped off proportionately.

In the case of GitS 2.0, the loss of cool is literal – the browns and oranges are warmer colors and change the overall mood of the film. The cooler blues and greens made everything feel a little more dangerous. It’s a shame to lose that.

Overall, then, Ghost in the Shell 2.0 is an entertaining, thought-provoking film that doesn’t quite equal the 1.0 version in terms of tone but doesn’t lose anything significant in terms of its basic ideas.

It would have been nice if the DVD had contained, at the very least, an interview with Master Oshii about the changes and why he felt they were necessary. As it is, there are no features with this package.

Final Grade: B+