January 12, 2005
Finally got a minute to comment on the DVD release of Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence.

First thought: When Jim Omura wrote his review of the movie after its premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival, he half-jokingly said that the movie would cost him a lot because he'd have to upgrade his TV. Watching it again, both on my 29'' TV and my 12'' laptop screen, I can only sigh in agreement and resign myself to dropping a few thousand to upgrade to a widescreen DLP television and a 5.1 surround system.

I'm struck again by how beautiful a film this is. Like Akira, it combines ancient (or ancient-sounding) music and modern imagery both urban and fantastic for one hell of a head trip. The difference is that where Akira was fiercely kinetic, Innocence is more languid and dreamier. Even the battle scene with Batou and Major Kusanagi running a gauntlet of homicdal dolls has an ethereal quality to it.

However, a lot of that quality comes from the texture of the movie's images and the layers of its sound. And that just means I'll have to get a better TV and sound system.

(Incidentally, I finally saw director Mamoru Oshii's first film this summer, 1985's Angel's Egg. It has a lot of the same qualities of Innocence, including a willingness to operate at a slower pace, and to let silence carry as much weight as noise and action. Unfortunately, it lacks the assuredness that would come after twenty years of experience, so its 71 minutes feels longer than Innocence's 99.)

Three complaints about the DVD, though: While the subtitles are the same as from the theatrical release (as far as I can recall), they aren't actually subtitles but closed captions. On my DVD player, that makes the text absurdly large and distracting from the gorgeous visuals. (It also means we get helpful descriptions like "[Japanese singing]".)

Second, I couldn't sit through the director's commentary, which seemed to be mainly trivia about production, rather than any real insight into methodology, theme, or reflections on the source material. (Maybe I should have stuck it out, but I wasn't encouraged to.)

Finally, the box art is terrible. With all the stunning imagery in the film, this was the best they could do?

Oh, well. At least the movie itself is still right up there. And after I get an appropriate TV to watch it on, my credit card bill will be too.

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