The year is 2029 and cybernetic enhancements are commonplace for the human body. Eyes can be enhanced to give superhuman vision and even abilities, prosthetic limbs appear and act true to life and can even enhance their strength. Sounds great, right? But what if someone can hack into your body? What if they can disable your body, or alter your memories or even control what you do? Well, this is the world of Ghost in the Shell.
Ghost in the Shell tells the story of Section 9, an intelligence agency in Japan and their investigation into the mysterious Puppet Master hacker. The Puppet Master ghost-hacked a handful of citizens, namely a sanitation worker and some thugs, to push his plans forward and spread his influence. Eventually hacking into a manufacturing plant to produce their own shell – a robotic humanoid body – the Puppet Master shows up in the flesh, so to speak, and Section 9 learns of the Puppet Master’s origin and its true identity of an AI which refuses to identify as an AI. The mystery unfolds in the end when the conflicts between Section 9 and the creators of the Puppet Master escalates.
Visually this movie is outstanding. It was made in 1995 but its style is certainly as beautiful now as it was in the past. It has a gritty look that complements the complexities of the themes in the plot while also including more than enough imagery to convey the technologically advanced future. Animations are fluid. The visual effects for optical camouflage and other non-existent technology feel natural, almost like it should exist. Audio wise, the ambiance is complemented well with the soundtrack being (for the time) futuristic sounding or fitting for the culture of this new future.
Personally, the greatest part of this movie is the themes it examines. Major Kusanagi questions where the line between man and machine is drawn. What makes you a human? What defines who you are? The Puppet Master, an AI created by man, even goes so far as to believe they are a living being and not an AI. The movie goes through such lengths to display that a “life form” lives by its memories and current thoughts and processes regardless of how much organic material the body or mind contains. So now the question is, are you human? Or are you a robot/AI convinced you’re human?
Overall this movie is definitely on a must watch list. It’s already considered a classic that is easily recommended by many. It’s a great cyberpunk story examining some very real themes. Give it a watch if you have not already and if you have, maybe it’s time for a rewatch.