Ghost in the Shell: The New Movie – Review

Ghost in the Shell - The New Movie.mkv - 00000So instead of an enigmatic cyborg-lady that kicks ass and is looking for the meaning of life, Motoko’s just a straight-up savior-figure at this point. What Motoko thinks should be done is the right thing to do. Her concept of individualization is the ultimate ideal humanity should chase after! Or at least that’s how Arise makes it seem…

Look, for example: If your dog named “Paul” dies and you get a new dog… of course, you’d name him “Paul – The New Dog”. It makes total sense! And if that dog dies, well, I guess, you kinda realize that naming your second dog “Paul – The New Dog” was kinda stupid. But you know what would make it work? If you’d call the next dog just “Paul – The New Dog” again! And! You call the old dog… wait for it… “Paul – The Old Dog”. So, what I’m saying is: Clearly we must now go back to Mamoru Oshii’s first Ghost in the Shell movie and call it “Ghost In The Shell – The Old Movie”. And if another GitS-movie comes out in the future, we just gotta rename this movie “Ghost In The Shell – That Other Old Movie”. I mean, it’s genius to just define a movie by whether it’s new or old in the franchise. Imagine if Peter Jackson’s “The Hobbit”-movies were called “The Lord Of The Rings – The New Movie” (and then just add a I, II or III to each respective movie). Such a great way to name things!

Synopsis:

Release-Date: June 2015
Running Time: 100 minutes
Synopsis:

Set in a futuristic Japan after the end of a brutal world war, science has advanced by leaps and bounds giving humanity the choice to prolong life and reduce suffering with the use of sophisticated cybernetics. With all of humanity linked into one system of minds and personalities known as ghosts, the biggest threat to civilization is the cyber terrorists capable of hijacking people’s bodies and memories. When a ghost-infecting virus known as Fire-Starter begins spreading through the system resulting in the assassination of the Japanese Prime Minister, Major Motoko Kusanagi and her elite team of special operatives are called in to track down its source. As they delve deeper and deeper into their investigation, they uncover traces of government corruption and a shadowy broker that bears an all-too-familiar face.

-ANN

Review:

Ghost in the Shell - The New Movie.mkv - 00003This is the counterpoint to Motoko’s individualism but as you can see here, the movie barely disguises who the bad guy is supposed to be in this debate.

Ubukata Tow’s prequel-saga has finally connected to the first Ghost in the Shell movie from Mamoru Oshii. Looking back on it I can’t say I’m a big fan of what he has done with the Ghost-in-the-Shell-franchise. Where Mamoru Oshii began with challenging philosophical storytelling, SAC continued that path by focusing on societal ideals while making the franchise as a whole more accessible. Until that point GitS has always been about delivering at least some sort of thought-provoking sci-fi-story even if it wasn’t a challenging one in the case of SAC. Ubukata’s style tried to aim for some thought-provoking ideas as well but what he did was to turn GitS into an action-series.

At first glance the first four Arise-movies were only loosely connected by the story of Motoko assembling her elite-team. But as the movies got re-released and ended with a new movie (so-to speak), it became clear that the Arise-series actually had been trying to follow a couple different storylines at the same time. And it’s only in this movie where all these various threads are finally coming together.

Beside the assembly of Motoko’s team, the Arise-series has been about the future of humanity and more specifically those of cyborgs. And in this regard there have always been three factions in this series: There are those in the economy and politics who want to halt the development of new prosthetics and cyberbrain-technology because it will keep existing factories alive and allow current living cyborgs to have a steady supply of affordable replacement-parts. The second faction wants a free market where technological development happens without regard for the consequences (one of them being that older cyborgs can’t upgrade their hardware and are left behind by technological advancement). And the army supports the second faction because as most of them are full-on cyborgs know that current prosthetic technology isn’t good enough and not developing better stuff just dooms every cyborg to a slow death. And then there’s the third faction which call themselves “The Third World”. They’re all for creating a singularity-event which eventually leads to all humanity turning into pure data. For that reason the virus “Firestarter” got created which brainwashes people into becoming supporters of “The Third World” in one way or another.

That’s the gist of it and just keeping that in mind is good enough to enjoy the story, I would say. The Arise-series has a habit of having almost labyrinthine plots with how many plottwists per minute you get. I mean, this movie may not be philosophically challenging but to follow its plot in all its intricacies is indeed a challenge. You gotta remember here are three factions with all very different goals constantly interacting and keeping track of who did what to who can be a very tricky affair. Especially since the Arise-series is mostly focused on producing action.

This leads to a somewhat poor treatment of what little depth this movie has to offer. Stuff like “memory-manipulation” isn’t the poignant, shocking event it was in the first GitS-movie but instead is just another “Well, shit happens.”-moment in the lives of Team Motoko. Topics like the fate of cyborgs that briefly got explored when Batou and Togusa talked to the guy from the Army who received last-words-messages from other soldiers. But it never went much deeper than “Guess, life sucks if you’re a cyborg.”. And even the two factions of what to do with prosthetic-development got superficial treatment at best in the story. Of course, it doesn’t help that all of the three factions in this movie could easily have their own movie with how much story you could get out of these ideas. Simply due to a lack of room these topics get reduced to these cheap one-note story-beats and get quickly drowned in a very convoluted story.

Ghost in the Shell - The New Movie.mkv - 00006Okay, now Saito’s characterization just made me laugh. If you’ve followed the whole Arise-series, you know what I’m talking about. Apparently someone had the common sense to realize that “being sleepy all the time ” is a VERY stupid defining character-trait to have for a side-character such as Saito. It’s a bit jarring how it got completely ditched and replaced with this bloodlust (which is silly in its own way as well) but it IS an improvement, I have to say.

But having the whole team assembled for this movie gives the type of storytelling the Arise-series has shown a much-needed emotional basis. Between a very convoluted story and fast-paced action there isn’t a whole room for soul-searching and other kinds of navelgazing. Besides the first Arise-movie which came closest to actually being somewhat quiet and meditative is still the one movie I hate the most from this series. Meanwhile, it certainly feels like Ubukata’s scripts have gotten better with each new installment of the Arise-series. Both the fifth “movie” which was released with the TV-version and this movie have finally mostly pushed any pretentious claims at depth aside. Just focusing on delivering action while using the story mostly to keep the audience on its toes tension-wise works much better than whenever the series tries to evoke an emotional reaction from the audience (that whole storyline from the fourth Arise-movie about the hacker and the girl committing suicide fell flat, for example).

Characterization is mostly perfunctory and there’s little in terms of depth here. You got a few cute moments with Motoko refers to her team as parts or when Togusa is concerned about how human Motoko is. But nothing of it amounts to much. At the end of the day the one story-beat the movie is after is the camaraderie between the characters which works well enough in this movie. The characters work well enough to make the movie pleasant but it isn’t like there’s any character standing out or is special. Even Motoko who gets the most screentime doesn’t develop much of a personality here except the few basic notes you’d expect if you’ve ever seen something GitS-related before.

One strange story-element is Motoko’s past and how it connects to Kurutsu (or Kurtz, I guess). Motoko’s past has been tackled before in a bit more ambiguous way during the second season of SAC and it’s certainly a very different story from what this movie tells. I have to admit that I didn’t expect such a close connection between Kurutsu and Motoko at all. They’re basically close childhood-friends and while the previous Arise-movies did portray them as being close it never seemed like they were aware of their childhood-friend-status. This is another element where the story becomes a tad too convoluted again. Apparently Motoko grew up in the same orphanage (which also served as a mix between charity and research-facility for prosthetics) and at some point she became friends with Kurutsu. Later Kurutsu became a fan of the whole Third-World-idea and started running around with body-doubles since she had a rare intolerance to cyborg-prosthetics. She developed Firestarter and it became so ambitious that it kinda led to Kurutsu developing multiple personalities with one of those personalities being Motoko’s army-buddy (without Motoko knowing that it was her childhood-friend). And in the end she loads her mind into the net just as a all the other Firestarter-victims did. It’s obviously supposed to be tragic but the reveal not only really appeared out of the blue but also Kurutsu (when she was still just Motoko’s army-buddy) had never seemed like a very trustworthy character. While it was clear that the two had a shared past, it certainly never seemed like they were THAT close. Their personalities and priorities seemed just that different from what the Arise-series had showed us. So to turn her into this tragic victim Motoko REALLY cares for in this movie seems a bit strange. Besides the reason why she would be a tragic victim is the very deep connection these two characters have but exactly that got turned into a late-game plottwist instead. Except this is the very foundation for why the audience would care in theory about the fate of Kurutsu. So what would have made this an effective story-development was intentionally kept from the audience to create a plottwist that did more harm than good storytelling-wise.

Visual-wise this movie is certainly a highlight of the series as well. From combat-choreography to action-setpieces this movie put out all the stops. Art-design-wise, though, this movie isn’t very inspired and goes for a more low-key, realistic look. But since this is essentially an action-movie the movie has enough good stuff to offer to make that stuff entertaining.

Despite its 100 minutes what this really is, is the finale of the Arise-series. It finally brings together all the disparate elements the Arise-series has been introducing during its run. With the clunky team-assembly-storyline out of the way the series has finally the elements it needs to deliver a satisfying action-packed adventure. The story is still a very convoluted affair but this has been Arise at its most coherent yet. Of course, it’s a bit sad that it took this long for the series to become the action-series it should’ve been right from the start (since the series’ strengths have always pointed into that direction). But if you’ve followed the Arise-series until now, this is certainly a more than entertaining conclusion to this prequel-series.

Rating: 7.5/10

Random Thoughts:

  • I have to say it again: I can’t believe someone on the creative team behind the Arise-series finally realized that Saito’s sleepiness was the stupidest thing you could’ve done with that character… or with any character for that matter. His bloodlust is comical, too, though.
  • For once, I was actually ahead of the story when it later got revealed that Motoko was set up to be framed for the Firestarter-virus. I mean, the movie opens with Motoko getting everything she wants from a politician with no strings attached except a plea for help. So Team Motoko does her first mission – and everything goes wrong! Also, the Prime-Minister got killed at the same time! And Saito saw a cyborg who looked exactly like Motoko at embassy where shit had hit the fan! When this much shit hits the fan this quickly just shortly after it had seemed like Motoko had gotten what she wanted, it’s kinda obvious that someone’s playing her.
  • Okay, I hate it when facts like Kurutsu’s death get established but then are proven false as a type of plottwist except the reason for said plottwist is nobody ever making sure that what was previously accepted as a fact is actually true. Shouldn’t the autopsy reveal whether someone is just a controlled dummy or a person with a Ghost?
  • Together with the fifth Arise-“movie”, this pretty much covers the beginning of the original of Ghost In The Shell with much more detail. I don’t think that this needed to happen and frankly I don’t care that this movie is trying to shed some light on a few story-elements of the first GitS-movie. Nothing about the beginning of GitS made me think “I wonder what the backstory to this is…?”.
  • Instead of being an experienced police-detective with a strong intuition, Togusa comes very close to being a comical relief with his goody-two-shoes moralizing. And the rest (except Motoko) basically just bully him for not being a cyborg.

About M0rg0th

We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.

Posted on November 6, 2015, in Anime, Ghost in the Shell: Arise, Ghost in the Shell: The New Movie, Reviews and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 7 Comments.

  1. I think Tow Ubukata is probably the worst writer working in anime today, so I have to ask, do you really think this movie is worthwhile? I’ve found the whole “Arise” series to be a pretty lousy approximation of the best GiTS work, bad enough that I’d hate to watch this movie to only have it further diminish my opinion of this once-great franchise.

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    • Okay, like I said, this is an action-movie – with its share of problems even if you just look at it as an action-movie. For me, after having seen this movie just thought: “Oh, thank God, it’s finally an Arise-installment that is somewhat decent and makes sense!” And really, even if you hated the whole Arise-series I would recommend to watch this (as long as you at least kept track of the story of the Arise-series). The most insane thing is that after watching this movie a lot of the previous ones make so much more sense! I’m not saying it’s good storytelling but it’s this movie where you finally realize what story the Arise-series has been trying to tell all along! At the same time, I doubt you’ll get as much from this movie if you haven’t paid much attention to the Arise-series’ storylines.

      And I wouldn’t even say Tow Ubukata is a genuinely bad screenwriter. It’s just that he’s a real tryhard and all his scripts so far have been plagued by him being more ambitious than competent as far as storytelling is concerned. As an action-movie this movie works – except when it’s doing anything story-related because that stuff is ambitious, convoluted and ultimately not that awe-inspiring, really.

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      • You’ve convinced me. I’ll give it a whirl.

        I suppose my loathing of Ubukata is built on the twin pillars of his dreadfully nonsensical Psycho-Pass 2 season, along with the cruddy, hard-to-like GiTS:Arise episodes. Honestly, I think Gen Urobuchi is really overrated, but his basic storytelling is at least competent.

        While I very much enjoyed the original Ghost in the Shell movies, the two seasons of Stand Alone Complex are some of the most brilliant TV I’ve ever seen, and I don’t limit that to just anime. Therefore, to me, Arise wasn’t just a disappointment. It pretty much defiled the whole franchise by completely missing what made it great. (Not that anyone asked, but I feel the same way about Sailor Moon Crystal vs. the original Sailor Moon anime.)

        It’s not the technobabble or literary/psychological musings, or even the action that make Ghost in the Shell so memorable. It’s the deep humanism and visceral emotion that infuse almost every frame. Ubukata seems interested in little more than showing off how clever and cool he is. Though even if he really were those things, he’d still be an awful choice to extend this landmark work.

        Hopefully, this new movie will make me realize I’m wildly exaggerating my condemnations!

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  2. Chanced across this review searching for reactions to the new movie, and I really like and for the most part agree with your analysis. I think the nomenclature issues might partially be because of it acting as a bridge between Arise and the original 95 animation – not saying it’s a valid excuse to call it something as naive as ‘the new movie’, but might make it seem a little less criminal?

    I agree with DP to some extent… the writing on Arise is nowhere near as organic as the rest of the franchise, or as informed. Watching Ghost In The Shell gave me the same satisfaction as reading a well written piece of literature, and not just because of the literary references and the philosophical interludes – even the investigations proceeded organically. This entire series seemed like an attempt at a fanboy trying to imitate his favorite artist – especially Motoko’s constant “ghost this, ghost that” dialogues seemed insipid to the point of being painful.

    Some positives: I did like the fact that they tried to imbibe some sense of human-ness to Ishikawa, Saito, Paz and Borma instead of the Batou-Togusa-Motoko holy trinity being forever in focus. However, none of the backstories make the kind of impact even a filler episode in GiTS SAC (the one where Saito narrates his first encounter with the Major) did. Another is the action and the animation, quite fluid and does at least manage to measure up to its predecessor if not exceed it greatly. And lastly – am I the only one who likes the music in Arise? It’s not Kenji Kawai level stuff, but it has its own jazz-ish charm, I feel, and blends well with the visual style.

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  3. Sigh….I would give this a try but…but…even the classic Ghost In The Shell was so dry to me, I just don’t know if I could make it through anything related to it. I just never cared about any of the characters, or anything in the world. I’ve been trying to watch a full episode, and the first film, for what is easily over ten years now lol. I might see it though, if its even to tear it apart.

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  4. then again that would mean watching all the other stuff so I’m not utterly confused. Maybe I’ll steer clear.

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  5. Apparently, kurtz belongs to the third world facrion. Can you tell me which factions other characters belong to?

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