Fans of Ghost in the Shell are, most likely, well aware of the re-mastered re-issue of this anime classic by director Mamoru Oshii. For those who need a little catching up, just know that Ghost in the Shell was a breakthrough animation released in 1996 and has since been hallmarked of the genre. It was the inspiration behind The Matrix, with several visual thematic elements being borrowed by The Wachowski brothers for their movie. Apparently, The Wachowski brothers presented a copy of the animation to their producers, declaring that they wanted to make a live-action version of the movie.
14 years later, GITS finds itself back in retail stores with new packaging, new footage and new audio. The question is, are the additions an improvement? Purists will not only be dissapointed by the additions but will likely consider them to be regressive of the original. Indeed, there are a few problems with the re-issue...
The first problem is the use of 3D. While the medium works for the backgrounds and are improvements of the original works in that area, the use of 3D for the animation's main character, Motoko Kusinagi, doesn't fit in with the rest of the movie. The close-up shot at the beginning reveals stiff and mathematical movements, in comparison to the fluid motions created by the hand-drawn cells of the original works. The nude shot of Motoko, just before she sky dives off a building looks like low-budget gaming models. Only those moments where we are seeing Motoko from behind and when the camera alone moves, is the integration of 3D with 2D seamless. That said, Oshii's reasons for doing any of this in the first place was to lessen the aesthetic gap between this and its sequel.
Speaking of the sequel, in Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence (which does a far better job of integrating 3D with 2D animation), Oshii switched from the typical monitor-green color for all computer imagery to the muted amber color that was employed in his live-action Avalon. It was a brilliant move since it gave the movie a wonderful somber glaze over its techno backdrop. Oshii attempts to apply the same glaze to this re-release with mixed results. Some of the areas where this has been applied has greatly enhanced the mood and successfully made the original feel like a close sibling to the sequel. But in other areas, the muted look makes this already 14 year old animation look and feel older then it really is -- as if it were archives pulled from the 1980s.
Of course, there is the possibility that my eye is just so used to seeing the original as it was, that it will simply need time to adjust to the new look. Kind of like seeing a friend with a dramatically changed hair cut -- at first, I would always see the hair and not the person. But in a week or so, my eye accepted the changes. That may be the case with this movie. In fact, I'm almost certain it is. In little over a half-hour I stopped paying attention to the graphics and my brain re-newed its vows with the story I fell in love with so many years ago.
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