Cybernetic enhancements and the wonders of technology are bashed by just about everybody these days. Black Mirror wishes to warn us of the folly of man if they dare use technology as anything more than a passing oddity, rather than something someone could rely on daily. Dare they take the risks? Yes, it would appear so. Ghost in the Shell shows just how fast the world around us could change, with wires sticking out the necks of protagonists, cool shades and earpieces that allow communication with whichever sucker has those aforementioned wires connected to them. Its animatronic ways and gravitas for the future is a bold expression from director Mamoru Oshii, but it is hard to take it all that seriously sometimes.
While the shootouts and action may be magnificent, the reasons for them and the international law-bending behind it is vague enough to express both confusion but alluring interest. Extreme violence plays its part relatively well throughout Ghost in the Shell, mainly because the animation is cool. There is no better word for it. The film knows it. Audiences know it. It looks cool and creative. As it should. Ghost in the Shell has the technical masterclass to thank for that. Swift city-building is easily achieved and the natural build-up Oshii has is incredible. Slick and futuristic, rough characters are presented not through appearance, but their attitude. Its elements of futuristic charms linger around the fantasy style often, and, if anything, this only adds to the extremely tight worldbuilding found within Ghost in the Shell.
A shame, then, that not much is done with it. Excellent work in the animation department, naturally, but the futuristic spell and the fundamentals of what Motoko Kusanagi (Atsuko Tanaka) is meant to be doing prove rather loose. It is not ill-defined, just not at the forefront of Oshii’s mind. He is more focused on bringing the world around them to life. An odd gamble, but credit where it is due, it does pay off. Remarkable worldbuilding is what he wishes to pride himself on with Ghost in the Shell, and while he misses a few opportune moments for the story to grow beyond the blocks of skyscrapers, to do so would stretch this futuristic vision a tad too far. What Oshii manages here then is a fascinating view of the future, which depends more on what the character means for audiences, rather than what they do.
There’s a deeper meaning to it all, of identity and self-worth, but Ghost in the Shell never provides much connection between that and its genetic enhancements. Impressive they may be independently, stringing them together is a bit too much for Oshii. At least he makes the world of the future look tremendous in that 90s-techno way, rather than a box of fears that Charlie Brooker might dream up. Anything would be better than that, and Ghost in the Shell certainly is. Magnificent direction and animation bring out a setlist of characters whose ability to bring this city of the future to life is remarkable, but what they hold within themselves is dubious, vague and leaves the audience to fill in the blanks.