Ghost In The Shell: Solid State Society
Color me suprised. Never in my wildest imagination did I ever think that, twenty years after its initial appearance from the pen of Masumune Shirow, I would miss the cast of Ghost In The Shell. Major Kusanagi, Batou, Togusa...these characters have become familiar after two feature films and two seasons on-air. More than familiar, really. As cold as the GITS world can be, these unique individuals (and their compatriots from Section 9) are fascinating to me. While their adventures have run the gambit from mediocre (the first film) to near-perfection (the first TV season), I've spent enough time with them to be glad to see their return. I'd never gotten around to seeing Ghost In The Shell: Solid State Society, and when I did, it was like seeing some old friends. Old friends with cybernetic implants and bad attitudes, but I digress.
As Solid State Society opens, it's been nearly two years since Kusanagi left Section 9, frustrated with the bureaucracy that kept her from fully pursuing the hackers and cyber-criminals that use the ubiquitous nature of the Net for their own ends. Togusa now leads the group, while the fiery Batou only works cases that his gut leads him to pursue. Things get harried quick as a group of thirteen people linked with terrorism start commiting suicide, all connected with something called the Puppeteer. As the investigation continues, the usual suspects in the government make things complicated. But as Kusanagi comes out of seclusion, the Puppeteer case spirals into a network of child kidnappings that have gone unnoticed. Before the truth comes out, Section 9 itself may be compromised as a team member's family becomes entangled in the Puppeteer's web.
Solid State Society continues the impressive level of work shown by Production I.G. on the television series. While as a made-for-TV movie it looks really no better than its Stand Alone Complex predecessors (and is nowhere near the beauty of the theatrical films), it still looks great. Yoko Kanno once again provides a stellar soundtrack; my wife was working on the computer in the room where I was watching, and she commented that without even noticing the program itself, the music was powerful. From a purely technical perspective, you can't really fault it. Also of note is the dub cast, which I find to be virtually note-perfect.
As one might expect, the plot of Solid State Society is labyrinthine, though no more so than other installments. In fact, after the Laughing Man and Individual Eleven storylines that unfolded across a full season's worth of episodes, this one is relatively uncomplicated...there are certainly less players and less layers. But for two hours of GITS goodness, that's not really a problem. I actually found the storyline to be one of the most disturbing, not because of violence or anything like that but the realization that the cyberization of children in some near-future society could make them easily exploited. Sadly, these scenarios exist throughout our world today, but this particular plot is one that could make me near technophobic, at least when it comes to the possible ramifications for my children and their children. Although there is little of the existential discussion that bogged down the two feature films, there's plenty of intellectual meat to chew on after Solid State Society is busy rolling the credits.
That isn't to say that Solid State Society completely defeats the primary problem of previous installments -- the lack of connection to the personal emotions and motivations of the characters. It would still be ingratiating to see Batou and Kusanagi's relationship explored more thoroughly, for example. But Solid State Society does become more personal...without spoilers, there's not much I can say. But there was a moment in the film that I gasped. Because the storyline exposes the vulnerabilities of one key player, it made a connection that I don't always have with this universe.
Perhaps everyone with an interest in this film has already seen it...and if you've not seen the television series leading up to it, while it will make sense, it won't have the resonance that's intended. But no matter...it's definitely a worthwhile addition to the whole. If this turns out to be the last bit of the GITS universe we get to see, it would be too bad, for it's nothing even remotely close to a wrap-up. If anything, it's a teaser for a third season. But if Stand Alone Complex ends here, at least this film doesn't disappoint.
Ghost In The Shell: Solid State Society -- graphic violence, profanity, brief non-sexual nudity -- A-