Hey folks, Harry here... This film is Oshii's best work yet in my opinion. INNOCENCE is a stunning work for literate science fiction and philosophy enthusiasts along with just lovers of beautiful works of animation. This film is WOW. Here ya go with the views from Toronto...
I just returned from the Midnight Madness screening of Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence at the 29th Annual Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF). In my sleep deprived state I must say I greatly enjoyed the strong first and third acts, but found the second act (where Batou and Togusa meet up with the elusive hacker known as Kim) overly saturated with philosophical musing. I don't see how this film will attain a mainstream following but devotees of Milton, Descartes et al will love it. That said, however, one cannot deny the visual richness of the GITS 2: Innocence. The blend of CG elements with traditional cel-animation techniques was extremely well done. It's probably safe to assume that Steamboy won't require Philosophy 101 as a pre-requisite.
And here's a lengthier look...
Just got back from a midnight screening of Mamoru Oshii's eagerly awaited sequel and I hate to say it but I am disappointed. First a note about the screening...
Those in the TO loop know that the Midnight Madness portion of the festival has moved into new digs this year due to the tragic loss of one of Toronto's last great movie houses, The Uptown. Ryerson Theatre (Ryerson is a small University in dowtown TO) has filled the void and if tonight is any indication things will never be the same.
I have been to many Midnight Madness screenings over the last several years and have seen lots of great flicks (Bubba Ho-Tep, Cabin Fever, Juon: The Grudge, Ichi the Killer, etc...), however, the best part of MM is the atmosphere. Several hundred genre geeks chompin' at the bit for anything weird and wild...electric! Or at least it used to be. Tonight was a real downer. The new theatre has a decent screen and sound sytem, but it has ZERO atmosphere. It sucks...plain and simple, and I am angry that I will never get to experience The Uptown again. This crowd just didn't know how to feel and it didn't help that Oshii was not present to talk about the film...anyway, enough bitching...on with the review...
Without giving too much away I can say that GITS2 is visually brilliant and thought provoking, but it is also plodding and overwhelmed by the non-stop barage of philosophical musings. Someone has got to make the definitive Man or Machine sci-fi film and put this trend to a rest. As interesting as the philosophical debate is it seems like every filmmaker that tries to tackle the issue ends up stuck in a ditch. Spielberg, the Wachowski's, even Ridley Scott, none of them have been able to satisfactorily deal with the complex issues that AI raises. Add Oshii to the list, though he does connect some interesting threads regarding robots, children, pets, and dolls and how they are all connected to "human beings". This is a smart film, but it relies too heavily on quotations from philosophers and I'm not totally sure they all work(keep in mind that I am not a smart man). Not to mention it gets pretty darn tedious. A little restraint during the writing phase and this movie could have been thematically ground-breaking. As it is GITS2 grinds itself to a halt.
The visuals, on the other hand are truly amazing. I promise you that traditional animation and CGI have never been so well combined. The detail of Oshii's world is mindblowing! You can almost taste the smog and filth! The action sequences are great, but they are too few and far between (see above). This film is worth seeing just to sit in awe of the craftsmanship of the animators.
I would have to say that one of the best things about GITS2 is the development of the character Bateau. Bateau was Major's partner and he is obviously devasted by her loss. Bateau is the star of the film. There are many quiet scenes that cut right to the "soul" of the character. All problems aside, Bateau is one of the most interesting Animated characters I have ever seen. (This is a different Bateau from the one we have seen in the first film and the TV series, GITS: Stand Alone Complex).
There is enough here to recommend and I will certainly watch the movie again on DVD, but the experience for me was ultimately disappointing.