Not rated, but let's talk turkey. This movie is sooper dooper R-rated. It's "R" in my heart. (There's an "R" in "heart" and I want to do a joke with it, but it doesn't translate out to typing as well as I would like.)
DIRECTOR: Mamoru Oshii
I've seen this movie before. I was in high school and my buddy was really into anime. He was preaching this movie pretty hard at the time and I remember the movie was kind of pervy. Boy, should I have trusted my memory before going into this one again. My memory of it being "kind of pervy" is such an understatement. It's so dirty that I felt icky afterwards. The reason I watched this one is because it is getting a live action remake and that looks marvelously cool. But now I'm not sure I want to watch it. If it is like this one, I don't want to feel icky in a packed movie theater. (Mind you, I'm simply assuming the movie is going to be a smash hit. There's a good chance that this thing could tank pretty hard.)
I'm going to hold off on my criticism of the perviness for right now. I'll get there, but I think I need to look at the bigger picture first. I've always had a hard time getting into hard anime. I think it is the same problem that I have with getting into hard scifi. There is so little relatable in these worlds and that's why I have a connection with cinema. A few years ago -maybe a decade -I tried watching Akira. I marveled at the beauty of the animation and the attention to detail that this world had encapsulated. For world-builders (heh), these movies are absolutely stunning. But my major problem surrounded that the movie ended there. It was a pretty movie. With Ghost in the Shell, I loved the attention to detail, but I was so driven out by the perviness that I couldn't even enjoy that the movie put insane amounts of effort into the world it had created. Part of world-building (I'm sorry, I can't take myself seriously even thinking of the word "world-building") is making a fictional and surreal environment seem like people really live in it. Both Akira and Ghost in the Shell honestly believe in the world that they have created. But they also don't care about holding our hands as we experience these new realities. Rather, technobabble simply needs to be accepted. This leaves its audience feeling dumber than the movie. Do I believe that there probably is an audience that gets every nuance of this world? Sure. But I don't like feeling dumb because no one decided to help me with some of the more obscure jargon. The reasons that doctors get mad when watching medical dramas is that everything is oversimplified. My wife (I should just rename this, "Mr. H's Film Class Blog Told Through the Eyes of His Wife") hated every time House would use a metaphor to explain a complicated situation to the other doctors in the room because they should know what he was talking about. The dialogue isn't for the other doctors. That dialogue is for me so I can follow along with complex and abstract ideas. Ghost in the Shell offers none of that. Most anime doesn't offer any of that. Maybe that's why I can't get on board.
I keep throwing the word "pervy" at this movie and perhaps that is unfair to a certain extent. There are cultural standards that Americans are often uncomfortable with. But since I put the "J" in "ENFJ", I can't help but be just a little judgey. A few reviews ago, I reviewed The Lobster, a movie that built its premise on the idea of discomfort. But anything put in that movie that might have had questionable content was to make the viewer uncomfortable. It was artistic and challenged the viewer. Ghost in the Shell really uses nudity in an attempt to arouse and that just stinks. I'm not saying that a movie can't do things like it did, but the angles and the gratuitousness of the scenes seems exploitative, even if the main character is simply animated. It makes this whole scifi venture seem very cheap and makes the whole thing bro-ey. I don't love that.
Two other major issues I had with this movie was its sense of pacing and its character development. No one can fault this movie for a lack of cool action sequences. Like most anime, it has it in spades. (Again, not an expert at anime, but the one's I've seen are choreographed beautifully.) But the movie has fight sequences and long debriefs, leading to a pretty bizarre arc structure that just leaves me baffled. I kept watching the movie and looking at the run time, knowing that the protagonists would have to confront the antagonist somewhat soon because the movie was running down. Considering that the film constantly talked about the Puppet Master, I had no idea what the Puppet Master's goal was nor why the protagonists had to stop him / her. When looking at a structure like that, I kept wondering where my investment would come from. With an antagonist that acts as a Macguffin, not knowing the character's purpose or plan really threw me for a loop. I even read the Wikipedia article at one point and tried rewatching parts. Nope. I understood it as much as I thought I did. I think the movie is just obtuse by its very nature. If people commented on this thing, I'm sure I'd get comments like "It's not the movie's fault that you're dumb." But isn't it? I'm really good at meeting people halfway, especially with high concept storytelling. But not really explaining clearly on a human level what is going on with the character is just bad movie-making. (Yes, imaginary commenter. I know it's based on a manga. I don't care. The filmmaker has a responsibility.)
The weirdest part is that I know that this movie is loved and adored by many, MANY anime fans. It's not my cup of tea, nor would I ever ask you to betray your love for this film. It just rubbed me the wrong way all around. It made me less eager to see the new one, but I'm sure I could be persuaded. But I'm not eager to feel icky again.
Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.