‘Ghost in the Shell’ vi­su­als need more life

The Washington Times Daily - - LIFE - BY JOE SZADKOWSKI

One of the most in­flu­en­tial Ja­panese an­ime sci-fi movies in the his­tory of the medium re­turns to Blu-ray in an artsy metal case but of­fers lit­tle else to im­press de­voted fans or home theater own­ers in Ghost in the Shell: Mondo X Steel­book Se­ries (An­chor Bay En­ter­tain­ment, not rated, 82 min­utes, 1.85:1 as­pect ra­tio, $34.99).

In 1995, di­rec­tor Mamoru Oshii adapted Shi­row Masamune’s se­quen­tial art (manga-style) source ma­te­rial, used tra­di­tional cel an­i­ma­tion with some com­puter-graph­ics wiz­ardry and cre­ated a sta­teof-the-art vi­sion of a highly ad­vanced and plugged-in world where hu­mans can pass their con­scious to cy­ber­netic shells.

The story, set in the year 2029, finds an elite team of en­hanced gov­ern­ment agents, led by the cy­borg Maj. Mo­toko Ku­sanagi, on a mis­sion.

They must lo­cate the ex­tra­or­di­nary crim­i­nal hacker en­tity known as “the Pup­pet Mas­ter” as it searches for a host and be­fore it can be­come sen­tient and merge with a hu­man body to ex­pe­ri­ence real life.

Amid some graphic vi­o­lence, nu­dity and a pinch of pro­fan­ity, Mr. Oshii and Mr. Masamune ul­ti­mately of­fered a philo­soph­i­cal look at what it means to be hu­man and the im­pact of elec­tronic mon­i­tor­ing and ro­bot­ics in so­ci­ety.

More point­edly, if an or­gan­ism’s DNA is sim­ply a pro­gram and its genes a mem­ory sys­tem, then can a sen­tient ro­bot be­come a life form?

Em­brac­ing themes from au­thor Philip K. Dick’s “Blade Run­ner” and “Mi­nor­ity Re­port,” “Ghost on the Shell” was a well-re­ceived, adult an­i­mated clas­sic that con­tin­ues to in­spire film­mak­ers to­day.

The 1080p dig­i­tal trans­fer is pass­able at best and looks culled from the 25th an­niver­sary re­lease of the film on Blu-ray, based on re­views of the 2014 re­lease.

The film’s col­ors are of­ten muted, not crisp or vivid as I would have hoped; it has some soft-fo­cus is­sues; and the as­pect ra­tio in­ex­pli­ca­bly presents a black bar win­dow boxed around the en­tire screen.

Still, this ver­sion is be­grudg­ingly the best­look­ing around and cer­tainly en­hances some mem­o­rable vi­su­als, es­pe­cially some close­quar­ter com­bat scenes and a fight with a gi­ant crus­tacean-look­ing ro­bot.

How­ever, with the cur­rent ad­vances in re­mas­ter­ing tech­nol­ogy, An­chor Bay had zero ex­cuse to not trans­form this re­lease of “Ghost in the Shell” into the de­fin­i­tive re­lease.

Best ex­tras: Ex­cept for a down­load code to add the film to an owner’s Ul­tra­Vi­o­let dig­i­tal cloud stor­age li­brary and the shiny new case, con­nois­seurs get noth­ing.

This ver­sion of the clas­sic is bar­ren and in­ex­cus­able. In past re­leases, view­ers were able to en­joy an in­ter­view with the di­rec­tor, an over­view of the pro­duc­tion, an in­tro­duc­tion to the an­ime style and even a col­lec­tion of es­says in a pre­vi­ously re­leased color book­let.

What will it take to get one ul­ti­mate ver­sion of the “Ghost in the Shell” Blu-ray pack­age to rule them all? Maybe, a 4K UHD re­lease is in the fu­ture to de­liver the goods?

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