Ghost in the Shell 2.0

Ghost in the Shell 2.0 ★★★½

"Ghost in the Shell" is sort of an animated "buddy cop" version of Blade Runner, a futuristic action drama in which we explore the nature of power and identity and sexuality in an overwhelmingly technological society. All were relevant themes when it came out in 1995, and they remain relevant. But there were problems ... the solid premise, the haunting theme song, and cyberboobs didn't quite make up for the flat characterizations and a surplus of fairly dull exposition. The action scenes worked well enough, but unfortunately the two lead characters were rather lifeless so when they stopped fighting and started talking to each other the film lost a lot of steam. Still, there was a strong story at the root of it all, so ultimately the shortcomings weren't all that hard to live with.

This 2008 revision (the changes aren't strong enough to call it a remake) leaves most of that alone... the film pretty much works where the original works. It's hard to say without seeing them side by side, but it looks like there were no significant scene revisions or audio changes, most of the effort seems to have gone into making the film visually richer and more detailed, warming up the color balance, and in short, making use of some of the advances in 3D computer animation that have been made since the original came out. In the first few scenes some of the changes seem interesting and worthwhile, but they soon wear out their welcome, taking on a distracting role, and in many cases are even aesthetically inferior to the hand-painted material they replace. This is definitely a case where the original should either have been left alone, or altered in a more delicate and respectful way.

So if I had to see just one version, at this point it would be the original. But I don't wish to overstate the film's shortcomings, either specific to this revised version, or with the original ... both are definitely worth seeing. "Ghost in the Shell" remains a remarkable story and its place in the history of anime is significant, having spawned a broad franchise and a very devoted following.