My copy of Ghost in the Shell 2.0 on Blu-ray arrived today. I encourage everyone with an iota of respect for this film not to buy it.
There are two things wrong with GITS2.0. The first is the 2.0 "remix" of the film itself, which looks like two entirely different movies spliced together without regard for continuity of visual tone. The original idea didn't seem like a bad one: take the computer-generated effects that were in the original edition of the film and recreate them using 2009 technology.
Fine so far. Except that the newly-created footage and the original footage clash so badly in tone and look that they might as well have scrapped the entire original film and re-made it. The original movie's CGI wasn't great, but it was impressive for the period — and, as with any movie, it was a part of an accepted whole. Bringing it "up to date" only means now you have two badly contrasting aesthetics — one from "then", one from" now" — being forced to share the same film.
Here and there they've attempted to bridge the gap between the two versions by changing the color balance of the original footage to match the gold-tinged CGI of the new material, but it doesn't work. Worse, many perfectly good shots in the original that showed plenty of native craftsmanship — like the magnificent hand-painted panorama in the closing sequence — have been replaced with CGI that's as impersonal and soulless as a screensaver.
I am not, in principle, against the idea of using digital techniques to correct deficiencies present in a film. I didn't mind when George Lucas re-composited many of the old effects in Star Wars to look that much better. I did mind when Han no longer shot first. But the temptation to fix what wasn't ever really broken is strong, it seems.
Now, none of this would be quite so egregious if you could only opt for the original unmolested version of Shell and be done with it. You can't. At least, not in anything resembling a watchable version. The import version of the film sports the 1080p 1.0 and 2.0 editions on the same platter — but it's $80. The U.S. edition, for $15, has only a dreadful-looking upconverted 1080i version (for all I know, it could be 480i) of the 1.0 cut. It is one of the most contemptuous things I've ever seen done to a film.
I wouldn't have minded paying extra — $40, $50 even — for good editions of both films, even if they weren't on the same disc. This is the sort of tactic I would have expected from a major studio with no real empathy for its customers, not indies like Anchor Bay Entertainment and Manga.
In sum: Save your money. Get the import version, which is expensive but is Region A and sports English subs. And write both Manga and Anchor Bay nasty letters — and perhaps Kodansha / Bandai as well, since I can only assume they did this as a sneaky way to prevent parallel imports of the product back into Japan at cut-rate costs. (You can expect to see a good deal more of that sort of thing in the future, too.)
Thanks, guys. Thanks for nothing and then some.
New York City
Other Lives Of The Mind