(Air Date: Week Of 4/10/96)
What do you get when you cross "Robocop" with "Blade Runner" and throw in a healthy dose of "Akira"? You might just get "Ghost in the Shell," the new animated film in limited theatrical release.
"Ghost in the Shell" refers to the main character, Major Motoko Kusanagi, a cyborg who works for a secret agency of the Japanese government in the not-so-distant future. Virtually all her body parts have been replaced with a "shell" of artificial enhancements, making her both physically superior and dependent on the government for regular maintenance.
She and her team are going after the Puppet Master, a villain who's been tampering with cyberspace to manipulate stock markets and political events and even changing people's memories to cover its tracks. She's hot on the Puppet Master's trail when, all of a sudden, the Puppet Master comes to her for help.
Now you may have some preconceived notions about animated films. "Ghost in the Shell" is far different from anything you're likely to compare it to. This is not a story for children; there are long contemplative dialogue scenes and some gratuitous nudity. The artwork is fantastic, surpassing any previous animated feature film's attempts at representing the human form. The theme of "what does it mean to be human" and the complicated plot actually require some thought. Very few easy answers here.
The only problem I had with the film is the voice acting. Dubbed into English from the original Japanese, the voices were mostly flat and unconvincing. It didn't bring the whole movie down, but it didn't help, either.
Otherwise, "Ghost in the Shell" is a visually stimulating, well-thought-out examination of where advances in technology could lead, and just how ill-prepared we are. It's a potential classic in animated film, and definitely worth a look.
Copyright 1996 Alex Lau
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