Ghost in the Shell is a franchise held in the highest of high regards. As somebody that’s never watched anything to do with it – it just passed me by – Ghost in the Shell The New Movie seemed like a great place to start in terms of its title, but that title is a little bit misleading. In actuality, this movie is the conclusion to the “Arise” series, which I only know thanks to the fantastic Extras on this release. So if you’re familiar with Ghost in the Shell, the Arise installments in particular, you’ll most likely have a great time. For those of us that haven’t, however, you can still enjoy the mesmerising action sequences and interesting world, but the deeper narrative and character interactions may not hit home as well as they would for a follower of the series. I’m not going to be disingenuous here, so understand that you’re about to read a review from the perspective of somebody with literally no Ghost in the Shell knowledge. With that out of the way, let’s move on to our full Ghost in the Shell The New Movie Review.
Forgive the lack of screenshots in this review. Blame HDCP.
So, in a brief summary of the story for those of you without time for my ramblings, Motoko Kusanagi has been granted her own unit with free reign to conduct crime prevention operations. In this post-cyberpunk time period, human beings have made giant strides in technology that allow for people to modify any and all parts of their body. This has led to an increase in both physical crimes as well as cyber crimes. As a cyborg since birth, Motoko has been used as a weapon in the past and now seeks to strike out on her own using her military connections to earn her own squad and approach situations as she sees fit. After the Prime Minister is killed in an explosion that also takes the life of Motoko’s old friend and now nemesis Kurutsu during the meeting. In an effort to get to the bottom of the crime, Motoko ends up pursuing someone with an exact replica of her own body. Thus, the plot thickens and we have our over-arching narrative.
Honestly, everything about the visuals in this iteration are top tier quality. From the intense combat sequences that have our heroine Motoko Kusanagi dashing through a gatling gun’s assault to the digital reconstruction and deconstruction of the meeting rooms the Shell Squad meet up in to talk via seeming telepathy, it’s a constant stream of gorgeous views. The character designs, too, are subtle, clean and cool. Motoko’s red jumpsuit strikes me every time.
Though she’s surrounded by rugged, highly-trained men, they all fall in line for Motoko’s leadership. She’s a definitive role model without a doubt, with a respectable strength and determination that compels others to follow her. I can absolutely understand why people have fallen in love with her as a character. Not only are her more obvious assets impressive, but on a deeper level, her consideration of the “ghost” (the series’ reference to what one might call a soul) is always somewhat present in her mind. How much humanity does a cyborg really have? Motoko matches the idea of a cyborg well with her super-strength, speed and non-reaction to the ripping off of her own arm, yet she’s considerate. She shows compassion to her team by keeping them at arm’s length as much as possible and they respond by backing her up regardless.
The rest of the squad had their stories essentially covered in the Arise series, and we’ll get on to why that’s a bit of a problem later, but they still maintain an intriguing through-line in their own right, with Batou being my favourite. His concern about being faced with the inevitable wear and tear of his cyborg body until he becomes obsolete is hidden only just beneath the surface, but he’s a dependable soldier through and through. He’s the closest thing Motoko has to a partner and his interactions with Motoko seem to reflect that.
As for the overall plot, it’s difficult to follow from this title alone. Because this movie brings a conclusion to the plot of the fire-starter virus that infects cyber-brains throughout Arise, the movie assumes a great deal of knowledge on the part of the viewer. I’d understand this a little more if “Arise” were literally anywhere in the title, but it’s not. It’s literally called Ghost in the Shell: The New Movie. Any random on-looker would be forgiven for assuming this was a great jumping-off point. It really isn’t. Though I enjoyed the group dynamics and the various characters, the main plot between Motoko and Kurutsu didn’t land at all as a result of not having followed Arise. I’ve looked up the various moments of fan service, including the end scene that gives a huge nod to the original work, and again, as a newcomer, these nods seemed a little out of place. Naturally, I understand those moments weren’t meant for me, but without Arise in the title, I feel the main plot should have been more accessible. It doesn’t mean you can’t follow this particular case. You absolutely can with ease, but the conclusion didn’t matter to me due to the over-reliance on prior works.
That aside, Ghost in the Shell The New Movie works entirely as a straight up action film. Even if I couldn’t follow the plot too well, it has intrigued me to go and seek the knowledge that I’m missing, starting with Arise in and perhaps working my back through the catalog.
The release comes with a high quality Funimation dub and the original Japanese dub with English subtitles. However you want it, I’m sure you’ll be pleased. I watched both and found myself fond of the Funimation dub but dubs are my preference in general. I warmed to the Japanese after watching the Extras on the disc.
Speaking of the Extras, this release is packed to the brim with truly interesting features:
- Inside the world of Ghost in the Shell Part 2 – various interviews are held with the main cast of the Funimation dub as to how they perceive Ghost in the Shell and the future of technology as it depicts it.
- SPECIAL: Arise Expained in 25 Minutes – a Japanese special with three key figures from the Arise series leading up to this new movie. This feature does help flesh out the knowledge you might not have of Arise going in.
- SPECIAL: 25 Years Reviewed in 25 Minutes – fond of the 25 minute features, another Japanese special looks back on the Ghost in the Shell franchise with a wealth of interviews from directors, writers and voice actors from all the way back to the 1995 original.
- Promo, Theatrical Trailer, Teaser and U.S Trailer.
So as you can see, there’s something there for fans of both the sub and dub to enjoy in terms of extras and the content is lengthy to say the least. I really enjoyed hearing about the history of Ghost in the Shell. Yet another thing that makes me want to go back and see what I’ve missed.
The film suffers heavily from being over-reliant on Arise but, other than that, it does a great job of gripping you with likeable Motoko as the lead and fantastic action choreography throughout. The visuals are marvelous too and I’m sure I’ll return to this after doing my research on Arise with a greater appreciation, but for now, it’s a solid release with some awesome extras that just falls a little shy of being great overall.
Game: Ghost in the Shell The New Movie
Review Format: Blu-ray