Ghost in the Shell

Ghost in the Shell ★★★★

81/100

Well, I’m happy to say that I understood Ghost in the Shell much better on my second viewing! That being said, I was able to understand the overall narrative and some of the philosophical themes quite well, but many of the finer points of the narrative and some of the complex sci-fi philosophy still went right over my head. It’s frustrating, because I think that Ghost in the Shell is intentionally quite esoteric and obscure. I wish that the film conveyed both the (really quite interesting!) philosophical ideas and narrative more acutely and clearly and felt that it could have done better in that regard.

The characters are really not emotionally compelling and rarely even feel human (which might be intentional). Admittedly I found the antagonist “The Puppet Master” to be the most interesting and compelling character. Perhaps ironic, perhaps not. Instead, the characters are mere vehicles to carry out the action in the plot, discuss the bizarre and complex politics, and develop the philosophical themes of the film. What we are left with is a movie that is philosophically and narratively deep and interesting, but also esoteric, unapproachable, and not emotionally moving in any way. 

Aesthetically this film is still quite solid. The action and sci-fi elements both look great and cinematic overall, and blend together well with the film’s deeper themes. One visual aspect that definitely did not age well were all the absolutely terrible 3D bright green computer graphic visualizations. Visually, my favorite aspect of Ghost in the Shell were the fantastic and oppressive dystopian cityscapes. In this regard, Ghost in the Shell seems to smartly take a page out of the setting of Neo-Tokyo from Akira, one of my favorite anime sci-fi films. The combination of Ghost in the Shell’s oppressive and overwhelming cityscapes with vacant, empty waterscapes are visually compelling and drives home humanity’s complete divorce from nature in a powerful, clear way. 

While a bit sparse for my taste, I also really enjoyed the soundtrack, which manages to be both pretty and strange at the same time.

Ghost in the Shell is both esoteric and difficult in many ways, and will require multiple rewatches to fully grasp (if ever…). But its undeniable philosophical depth and fascinating computerized sci-fi narrative are compelling in their own right and have deeply influenced so much media over the last 25 years. Ghost in the Shell is at least a must-try for any passionate sci-fi or anime fan.