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'Ghost in the Shell: The New Movie' has all the right parts
4.0Overall Score

The “Ghost in the Shell” franchise is one the most popular and well-known anime series. Featuring a string of films, manga, and TV shows, “Ghost in the Shell” delivers intricate lore and recurring themes. 2015’s “Ghost in the Shell: The New Movie” offers a continued epic characterized by personal narrative, geo-political maneuvers, and engaging storyarcs.

“The New Movie” picks up before the 1995 film “Ghost in the Shell,” but after the television series “Arise.” It’s the year 2027, and Major Moto Kusanagi and her team are dealing with a hostage crisis. Meanwhile, a bomb explodes killing the Prime Minister and Kusanagi’s friend Kurutsu (Kurtz). A mysterious villain infecting cybernetics with the Fire Starter computer virus shows up, and its appearance launches an investigation. The Major, aided by her loyal team probes the bombing and Fire Starter, unraveling a winding plot of political intrigue.

“Ghost in the Shell: The New Movie” fits neatly into “Ghost in the Shell” lore, but in such a way as to stand on its own. It’s not necessary to watch the series “Arise” first, or at all, but as Richard Eisenbeis explains over on Kotaku, “The New Movie” enhances the “Arise” experience. Though 20 years after Mamoru Oshii’s 1995 classic, the universe entry remains as on point and enjoyable as its inception. The animation forgoes CGI, though a few scenes pepper mild 3D shots into the primarily 2D environment. Gorgeous animation establish impeccable cinematography, with long panning shots, and zoomed-in close ups.

The plot melds genres wonderfully, blending sci-fi, action, detective mystery, and political thriller. This unique combination makes for a riveting narrative that doesn’t fully unravel until the final scene. “The New Movie” meanders along several subplots in addition to the primary storyarc, such as Kusanagi’s childhood as a full cybernetic since birth, her rift with the 501st military organization, and her relationship with Kurtz. Quite a few throwbacks to 1995’s “Ghost in the Shell” speckle “The New Movie,” notably the finale with the Major jumping from a high rise rooftop.

Each aspect of “Ghost in the Shell: The New Movie” unites like a well-crafted android to create a beautiful film. Adrenaline-infused action scenes pop from the screen, the story is engaging, and characters deliver unique personalities. Kusanagi plays the dedicated, confident, caring leader, Batou the comedic tough guy, and Togusa, the only fully non-cybernetic member of the Major’s unit. An underrated aspect of the film is the music, which ranges from uptempo techno beats to jazzy numbers. The score perfectly matches the on-screen happenings.

A surprising aspect of “The New Movie” is the reliance on dialogue. Though action is plentiful, the plot is perpetuated by conversation. While this serves to balance out the pace, much of the discourse is heavily geo-political. At times, it’s a bit dense and winding, as if you’ve stumbled into the maze from “The Shining.” However, the main point of “Ghost in the Shell: The New Movie” isn’t the weighty political secrecy that permeates the narrative, but rather the relationships and character backstories. Ultimately, “The New Movie” overcomes the rambling, complex governmental tale, as its comprised of (in the Major’s words), “the best parts.” “The New Movie” remains a fantastic continuation of the franchise, or standalone flick, with excellent animation, action, and an enthralling plot.