Ghost in the Shell 25th Anniversary Edition Blu-ray Review
What is there to say about one of the most revered anime films in the history of the genre? Just given the 25th anniversary treatment (sort of, more on that later), GHOST IN THE SHELL has finally been released in 1080p on Blu-ray by Anchor Bay entertainment. (The previous treatment topped out at 1080i.) The result is a somewhat mixed bag. A bit of fan service is in the mix but the majority of this release feels more like a cash grab, giving the whole thing an uneven feel with which I’ve struggled. But first, the movie…
Twenty-five years after the initial release of GHOST IN THE SHELL, the film feels more prescient even than when it was released. Like the manga on which it was based, GHOST IN THE SHELL tells a story of the future of our planet. A world tangled with interconnectivity through a vast network of computers. GHOST IN THE SHELL came up with many things that are now tropes in the world of science fiction thanks to THE MATRIX (1999). The dropping green text at the opening? That was here first. Jacking in through a line at your neck? Also here.
You have to understand just how groundbreaking this movie is if you check it out, and you should if you’re into film history, anime, or just good movies (that’s not to say that you should check out THIS version though). GHOST IN THE SHELL was, though sometimes campy and silly in a way that only anime can be, a look at the future and got a lot of things right. We DO connect with people all over the world via our computers, multiple times, every day. But of course, just like the real world this level of connection can be taken and used for worse purposes… and online predators take a whole different meaning.
Except in the world of GHOST IN THE SHELL – you don’t just log in using a computer screen. And the world isn’t inhabited solely by humans any longer. Now many people give their bodies to their governments so they can be augmented and turned into cyborgs; torn down so they can be built anew with cybernetics and physical augmentations that make them stronger, faster, they can even make you invisible. In this future world when someone gets hacked they don’t just lose their identity online, they can lose everything (including control of your body).
GHOST IN THE SHELL is a story about how far we might go and it’s more than a little creepy when you stop to think about just how much stuff they got right. It isn’t every day that you get to see a movie like this and enter a world so stylized and beautiful and yet so gritty, so ornate. It’s an incredible vision given to us by director Mamoru Oshii, who went on to make GHOST IN THE SHELL 2: INNOCENCE (though not a true sequel) and then went all George Lucas on the cinematic world and helped create GHOST IN THE SHELL 2.0 – a revamped version of this film with enhanced CGI and a few additional edits.
Still, GHOST IN THE SHELL is a great achievement. We live in a world of constant bombardment from entertainment. Movies like GHOST IN THE SHELL and other anime has heavily influenced the world, including that of adult-oriented animation. It would be easy to watch this Blu-ray and forget that and think that it is a pretty, if fairly standard anime film. But that would be to sell short the fact that it heavily influenced so much of what we see on television today.
All of this makes it harder to talk about this Blu-ray release; called the 25th Anniversary Edition the only thing this disc brings is a 1080p transfer of the film. It’s impressive to be sure but the lack of a single additional extra feature here feels like a slap to the face rather than an artistic choice (see: David Lynch’s release of MULHOLLAND DRIVE, for example, which played like you would see it in a theater, from beginning to end without chapters and scene selection). This just feels like a cheap way to get fanatics to purchase another copy of a movie they already released on Blu-ray with a much more impressive package. And because of that I can’t recommend this Blu-ray release. This one is only for the hardcore fan.
Video: (1080p Widescreen 1.78:1) The video presentation of GHOST IN THE SHELL is beautiful but the film is beginning to show it’s age and isn’t quite the vision I recalled from younger viewings.
Audio: (English DTS-HD Dolby 5.1) GHOST IN THE SHELL features a nice, if not overly impressive, soundtrack and scoring. While immersive some of the choices, like the AWFUL English dubbing and the strange bridal music that plays several times, are just a little too weird for this westerner even though I love the film.