Ghost in the Shell: The New Movie is essentially a continuation of the four-part Ghost in the Shell: Arise anime series but, due to its release coinciding with the franchise’s 25th anniversary, was marketed as an event film that happened to be set within the Arise universe but was still very much its own separate production. The reality though is something quite different.
The film continues several main plot elements and character arcs that were introduced in the Arise anime series and manages to tie them all up neatly by the time the end credits begin to roll. Due to this, The New Movie feels more like an extra-long series finale to Arise rather than the epic Ghost in the Shell movie many fans would be expecting and this is disappointing.
The animation and sound design are solid but rarely exceed the quality exhibited in the Ghost in the Shell: Arise TV episodes. The visuals lack the detail and attention that many would expect from an animation created for a theatrical release and this becomes increasingly apparent as The New Movie continues to pay homage to the original 1995 Ghost in the Shell film throughout its runtime and, more often than not, fails to surpass it.
A prime example of this is The New Movie’s closing scene which is an almost shot-for-shot remake of the original’s opening. It’s technically well-animated but it’s also incredibly rushed, feels tacked-on, and instead of finishing the Arise saga on a memorable scene that defines it as its own addition to the popular Sci-Fi franchise, the bland direction leaves the viewer with one single thought; “The original did it better”.
This is a problem with the Arise anime as a whole which also reused plot elements from the original film. It was very much a deliberate choice by the creative team to equally pay homage to the original and also lay the groundwork for that film’s storyline. It sounds like an okay idea in theory, but when The New Movie and every episode of Arise present storylines revolving around either Ghost-hacking or memory-rewriting (both major plotlines in the original film), it does make one wonder why, with a world as complex and interesting as that presented in Ghost in the Shell, there are no more original stories left to tell.
Blu-ray and Special Features
Ghost in the Shell: The New Movie is presented in 1080p HD and comes with 5.1 Dolby TrueHD audio tracks in both English and Japanese. The image renders the film’s bright colours and sharp lines beautifully and both audio options feature great use of the different audio channels, particularly in scenes where the characters are communicating cerebrally.
Surprisingly, the highlight of this Blu-ray release of Ghost in the Shell: The New Movie isn’t the movie itself but the three extra features that delve into the evolution of technology in the real-world, the creation of Ghost in the Shell: The New Movie and Arise, and the legacy of the entire franchise 25 years later. All three are must-see for fans of the franchise and they even encourage greater appreciation of Arise and The New Movie with their fascinating insight into the creative process.
Who Should Watch Ghost in the Shell: The New Movie?
While being a movie that was given a theatrical release, Ghost in the Shell: The New Movie is very much more of a conclusion to the Ghost in the Shell: Arise TV series than its own stand-alone experience. As such, viewers who have not seen Arise may feel lost while watching this even if they’ve watched previous entries in the franchise such as the original film or Stand Alone Complex.
There’s little in the way of sexual imagery in Ghost in the Shell: The New Movie and all of the violence is fairly tame due to the nature of the science fiction world it’s set in. A man being killed with a headshot, for example, would usually push a movie into adult-only territory but, due to the head being full of wires and metal sheets instead of flesh and organs, it’s unexpectedly all-ages.
What will make Ghost in the Shell: The New Movie unsuitable for younger viewers though is its focus on intense political and theoretical dialogue. Even with the high level of action in The New Movie, the amount of long conversations about conspiracies and the meaning of the soul will bore pre-teens very quickly and even some adults may find themselves wishing for the characters to just get on with it.
Ghost in the Shell: The New Movie is a well-made animated film with a vibrant look and a good script but, like the Arise series that preceded it, struggles to leave its own mark on the popular franchise and is handicapped by a need to pay homage to the 1995 original at the expense of its own individual identity. Worth checking out, especially for fans of the franchise, but it’s not the classic that it tries to be.
Zone B Blu-ray Available From: FishPond.com.au