Movies & TV / Columns

From Under A Rock: Ghost in the Shell

September 16, 2017 | Posted by Michael Ornelas
Ghost in the Shell
The 411 Rating
Community Grade
Your Grade
From Under A Rock: Ghost in the Shell  


*cue haunting chant music*
This week’s pick is really good, folks.

You only get one first time, and for some people, it comes later than it does for others. This particular column is about documenting the first viewing of a “classic” movie or TV show determined at the discretion of Aaron Hubbard and Michael Ornelas in alternation.

Last week Michael chose Tusk. This week Aaron takes Michael out from under the proverbial rock to show him Ghost in the Shell.

Ghost in the Shell
Released: November 18th, 1995
Directed by: Mamoru Oshii
Written by: Kazunori Itō
Atsuko Tanaka/Mimi Woods as Major Motoko Kusanagi
Akio Ōtsuka/Richard Epcar as Batou
Iemasa Kayumi/Tom Wyner as The Puppet Master

Aaron Hubbard: Ghost in the Shell is an anime classic and one of the most influential films of the last thirty years. I’ve been eager to discuss it for a while now.

Michael Ornelas: It was solid, and I enjoyed it despite being anime, which I tend to have a harder time getting into. One of the better ones I’ve seen.
Science Fiction in the Digital Age
Aaron: I’ve always been drawn to speculative science fiction that has a lot on its mind. Released in 1995, just before the first real internet boom, Ghost in the Shell is very upfront about technology becoming a bigger part of our lives. It deals with questions of humanity, how technology enhances us functionally while perhaps taking something vital from us in exchange, and what intelligent life means in a world where most people are cyborgs. The film was a huge influence on The Matrix in particular, but it’s still easy to see its visual and thematic imprint on films like Under the Skin and Ex Machina.

Michael: It’s a complex theme and it’s somewhat abstract in its presentation here, but never unclear (if that’s not too contradictory). Motoko is a great hybrid of these ideas, while the plot presents the actual conflict to be had between them. What’s scariest is that with the way technology is heading, this movie feels less like science fiction than I’m sure it did in 1995 (which is interesting, because that’s essentially a line in the movie). Technology and humanity are merging, and there’s little we can do to stop it, so we better learn how to adjust.

Aaron: The film certainly feels prophetic in some ways. There’s a lot more to unpack as well; the film is also dealing with Western influence on Japanese life, and has a more than a little to say about gender politics. I’m not qualified to speak on all of the stuff that goes on here, but I love a film that’s thought provoking while also delivering a good story and riveting action scenes.
Music Perfectly Setting Tone
Michael: The score to this movie was amazing — highly stylized, and tonally bleak, dystopian, and minimalist (except for key moments). I loved the musical choices made during the climax as Motoko is up against The Puppet Master as they weren’t your typical “balls to the wall, guitar wailing tough guy” choices…but actually very calm while still keeping intensity high. I have a background in music (orchestral percussion), and this score spoke to me and really helped me get into the movie despite a language barrier.

Aaron: My copy is dubbed in English, so I never had that issue. I need to watch it in Japanese someday. But to your point, the musical score is phenomenal, with or without the movie to accompany it. And I think it’s vital as the film spends a lot of time establishing setting and atmosphere and the music helps carry it along. The chant in particular is just a great, distinct theme.

Michael: My roommate, who is suffering from some medical difficulties right now (don’t worry, he’ll be fine), heard the theme blaring and mustered up the energy to come out of his room and catch the chant theme scene. Iconic.
John Carter Syndrome
Aaron: As a seminal film in the science fiction genre, the film has had its ideas picked dry by dozens of other films. As such, revisiting it can be tough task because you can only be revolutionary once. Do you feel the film lost some impact on you because you have seen this elsewhere, or did it have enough material to feel fresh for you?

Michael: I watched it through a lens of “this was 1995” and it actually did a lot to help my appreciation for it! I was honestly surprised how much I felt this would have been at home if it came out in 2017. I mean, technically, it did come out this year, but we don’t have to talk about that version. Yikes. But back to the original, it was a stunning look at all the themes you mentioned above (most resonating with me through the idea of humanity becoming more dependant on tech), and a visual treat as well. Lots of robot boobs, though.

Aaron: Yeah, the Major is designed to reflect how being a cyborg takes away her own sexual desires or even a sense of shame. She is unaware that she is titillating her coworkers or the audience, both of which probably have confusion over being aroused by a robot. Which brings up a lot of debate, but I don’t want to get too into it.

I also did watch the 2017 film and… yeah. It’s a hot mess that doesn’t understand anything about what makes this film tick. Much like John Carter the film, the influence of the source material does not give the adaptations a free pass.

Michael: Not my go-to style of movie, but executed very well with complex and unique ideas. Mix that with stunning music, and this gets pretty high marks from me.


Aaron: I love this film. It’s visually arresting and masterfully scored. The plot is exciting, but the world it happens in and the questions the characters ask make for a rewarding experience. In my book, it’s a classic.


Michael: Did you expect me to connect with an anime like this?

Aaron: Not so much, although I think it’s more digestible for you than say, a Miyazaki film.

What are your favorite anime films?

Next week:

Michael: Next week’s column has been in the works for the better part of the past several months, and it’s one of my favorite properties of all time (moreso now that The Return has finished and was one of the best seasons of TV I’ve ever laid my eyes on).
Twin Peaks
Aaron: You’ve dragged me kicking and screaming through this pick for months, but the payoff is worth it.

Michael: It really is. And just to be clear: our pick is all three seasons plus Fire Walk with Me.

What are your thoughts on Showtime’s recent Twin Peaks revival?

E-mail us at [email protected]
Follow us! @FUARockPodcast
Like us on Facebook!
And follow Michael on Twitter! @TouchButtPro

Check out our past reviews!
Mission: Impossible, They Live, Marvel’s Daredevil, The Silence of the Lambs, 12 Angry Men, The Usual Suspects, The Boondock Saints, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, The Iron Giant, Fargo, American Psycho, 28 Days Later, Frankenstein, Crank, The Godfather: Part II, American Beauty, Rocky, Alien, Spaceballs, Star Wars: Clone Wars, The Muppets Christmas Carol, Reservoir Dogs, Superman: The Movie, Lethal Weapon, Double Indemnity, Groundhog Day, The Departed, Breaking Bad, Shane, Glengarry Glen Ross, Blue Ruin, Office Space, The Batman Superman Movie: World’s Finest, Drive, Memoirs of a Geisha, Let the Right One In, Apocalypse Now, Aliens, The Incredible Hulk, A Clockwork Orange, Chicago, Seven, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze, The Room, Chinatown, Jaws, Unforgiven, RoboCop, The Legend of Korra – Book One: Air, Ghostbusters, Spider-Man 2, Prometheus, Scarface, Gattaca, Monty Python & The Holy Grail, Tucker & Dale vs. Evil, Equilibrium, City of God, The Graduate, Face/Off, Snowpiercer, The Exorcist, Hellboy, Village of the Damned, A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night, Idiocracy, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, The Fly (1986), Under the Skin, Die Hard, Dredd, Star Wars Holiday Special, A Christmas Story, Snakes on a Plane, The Big Lebowski, Bulworth, Raging Bull, Thank You for Smoking, John Wick, Mulholland Drive, The Karate Kid, Lucky Number Slevin, The Searchers, Black Dynamite, Labyrinth, Rick & Morty, 2001: A Space Odyssey, The Abyss, Seven Samurai, Bio-Dome, Memento, L.A. Confidential, Tangled, T2: Judgment Day, Wonder Woman, The Way Way Back, Rebel Without a Cause, Predator, Before Sunrise, Evil Dead II, Planet of the Apes, Wet Hot American Summer, Tombstone, The Core, American Graffiti, León: The Professional, Steel, Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Logan, Tusk, Ghost in the Shell

Aaron Has Another Column!
Kubrick Month continues this week with Dr. Strangelove. Next week, A Clockwork Orange.

Aaron is now on Letterboxd!
Check me out here to see my star ratings for almost 900 films. Recent reviews include the 2017 adaptation of this film, as well as Spartacus.

The final score: review Amazing
The 411
Ghost in the Shell is a fantastic science fiction film by any criteria, and is probably the best sci-fi animated property. Its visuals and music are iconic, The Major is an awesome character that is great at being RoboCop and at asking philosophical questions about her own existence. It's worth going out of your way to experience.