Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence starts its run in Montreal next Friday, but today was the advance screening for the press. Although Jim Omura has already reviewed it, I have to offer up a few observations.

Jim said in his review that "[v]isually, Innocence is more heavily a product of computer talent than the sweat of traditional animation artists. There are scenes that are filled with travelogue beauty which is best appreciated on a very large screen, and others with the filth of ancient back alleys, a staple of Ridley Scott's Blade Runner. This is one of the minor problems of the film. There is so much computer work that despite the effort to make it all graphically harmonious, one must wonder why Oshii bothered to leave in any hand-drawn art."

Interestingly, I agree with the basis but disagree as to the conclusion. I think it should have looked more hand-drawn. Look at the opening: like the first movie, it's a birth scene, with the fusing of organic and inorganic materials creating a cyborg. (And, like the original, the scene is set to the haunting music of Kenji Kawai -- hey, DreamWorks, why don't you release the soundtrack CD?) It's a gorgeous sequence, and there's one part where imagery that we expect of biological processes is replicated cybernetically, and shot more in the way we would associate with astronomy. (Sorry if I'm being too vague -- I don't want to spoil it if you haven't seen it yet.) A bit later, we see the cyborg body rising up out of liquid, again echoing the first film visually and musically.

These two segments are CGI. Immersive, organic CGI, but still obviously created with computers. The first would have been as impressive and as affecting had it been hand-drawn; but the second, with its flatly shaded cyborg in the middle of all this seductive colour, is a little jarring -- it actually would have been better if it had been drawn. Or, better still, it could have been like many of the film's better moments, and had hit that spot in between hand-drawn and CGI, where different screen elements take advantage of the technique that works best, and it's all put together with a unifying aesthetic.

The movie is still just short of the graphic harmony Jim refers to, but it certainly points to one possible future where we don't bother asking if something is "2D or 3D" -- it just is.

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