Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence (2004)
Directed by Mamoru Oshii
Produced by Production I.G
Based on the manga Ghost in the Shell by Masamune Shirow
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 64%
The follow-up to one of the most famous Japanese animated films of all time. Created a decade later and built for a new generation, can this sequel hold up to the standards set by its predecessor?
Set after the events of Ghost in the Shell (1995), the ‘deceased’ Major’s partner Batou is given a predominantly human partner in Togusa. The two of them are forced to investigate after a series of murders by malfunctioning sex robots raises a terrorism alert.
The initial Ghost in the Shell film is an almost legendary piece of Japanese animation, a real breakthrough moment for the medium. Part of its legendary status is the fact that it has aged so well, the animation and styling feeling as up-to-date now as they did in 1995. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for its sequel.
Released nearly ten years after the first film, GitS primarily uses a 3D-CGI style of animation that you have to assume was popular around the time of release. While this probably appeared as cutting-edge at the time of release, around 15 years later, it feels terribly out of touch. What made it worse was the quality of animation in the first film; you can’t help but wonder what this would have been like if it was traditionally animated.
The story itself, however, was a fairly interesting continuation of the world portrayed in the initial film. The initial premise is probably more engaging than the first film’s, and the cyberpunk world is also portrayed in greater detail. However, over the course of 90-odd minutes Innocence struggles to keep you engages like the first film.
One of the main reasons why this film falls flat is a lack of action. While the female robots at the heart of the story are deeply interesting, you only really see them in action at the very beginning and very end of the film. In between, you can count the moment of real excitement on one hand. Perhaps taking a leaf from the first film, Innocence focuses a lot on the philosophy of robots and the futuristic world. However, this film struggles to balance that with genuine engaging content.
Another reason why innocence struggles to grip you is due to its characters, and again it is not helped by its previous film. Only after watching Ghost in the Shell 2 do you realise just how great a character Major was, and how important she was to that first film. Her captivating, conflicted presence is sincerely missed here in a film that is full of monotonal faces and deep, murmuring voices.
As eluded to above, the direction in this film is actually quite good. Oshii, returning after directing the first film, does a good job of portraying the world in great detail and tries to squeeze excitement out of a relatively bland group of characters. However, over the course of time much of this film has aged quite poorly. There are times where the slow and clunky CGI feels slightly too drawn out, while the action that is here is also not quite up to the levels set by the previous film.
Overall, it’s fair to say that this film doesn’t really stand up in a comparison to the first Ghost in the Shell movie. Some of that is down to the aged animation style, as parts of Innocence do feel like a glorified tech demo. However, Innocence is also hindered by the loss of the first film’s star and a lack of character to fill the void. The dynamic cyberpunk world is still fun to watch and is excitingly portrayed, but Ghost in the Shell 2 simply doesn’t deliver the excitement of its predecessor.
Want to discover more? Check out our Ghost in the Shell (1995) movie review!