Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex: Solid State Society Blu-ray Review
Two years have passed since major Kusanagi left Section 9 and disappeared. An unexplained chain of suicides committed by ex-military personal from a foreign country leads Section 9 to uncover that Japanese children are being kidnapped in unprecedented numbers. Section 9 believes the two cases are connected and enhances the investigation. In Kusanagi’s wake Batou and Togusa are doing their best to juggle the training of new recruits and the cases at hand. But soon enough Batou discovers that Kusanagi is suspiciously involved in the kidnapping case and starts to ponder if Section 9 is heading in an unavoidable coalition course with too-strong a foe. Meanwhile Togusa receives an ultimatum to stop the investigation from a mysterious organization known as the Solid State Society. Will he be able to uncover this organization’s true form before the Solid State Society realize their threat and finish him off?
Those who watched the Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex series in the past will be all too familiar with the setting and working characters behind Solid State Society. This movie is a mix of detective activities and action scenes with an emphasis on science fiction elements such as prostatic bodies and cybercrimes. However, unlike the series that came before it GITS: SAC: SSS deals more with the abuse of cyber technology than it does with the human soul and digitalization. The movie takes place in the Stand Alone Complex universe but is actually loosely based on chapter 2 (Super Spartan) of the original Ghost in the Shell manga padded with some elements from the Ghost in the Shell: Man Machine Interface manga. In Solid State Society Batou and Togusa take center stage, with others only reprising their parts shortly. Surprisingly Saito – the sniper of the bunch – receives a bit more love than he did in the TV series (and makes a dumb mistake that almost costs him his life). The major herself comes into play later in the movie. Kusanagi Motoko’s cyberbrain has evolved even further and in essence has reached the level of a puppeteer. She can now control two prostatic bodies at a time and has worked undercover to solve many cases without being noticed by the police or Section 9. She is almost an overwhelming, unstoppable, power in Solid State Society and walks the fine line between being powerful and being almighty.
Thankfully this movie pits her and Section 9 against their hardest adversary yet. The Solid State Society is a force to reckon with and has its own puppeteer to counter Section 9’s cybertech. Even though Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex was always about the prevention of cybercrime nothing Section 9 has handled in the past even comes near the cyberhacking power held by the Solid State Society. This is one enemy that isn’t afraid to strike back, and strike back hard. There are no hunter and hunted here. Only two equally powerful sides waiting for the opportunity to crush one another.
Although GITS: SAC: SSS has elements resembling that of Oshii Mamoru’s original Ghost in the Shell movie (such as the notion of the puppeteer, two moody songs and a huge tank which Kusanagi yanks open with her bare hands) Solid State Society is all about action and leaves no emotional impact overall. Moreover, even though SSS was shown in theatres and is indeed a movie it doesn’t quite live up to what you would expect from one. Firstly, except from two new songs by Origa this movie shamelessly reuses all the tracks from the TV series. Secondly, it looks exactly like an episode taken from the TV series, which in a nutshell means it looks mighty good but doesn’t gain a whole lot by being a movie. And thirdly, the story of the Solid State Society is too cumbersome and way too long to fit into a movie. It certainly feels tiresome when, in the middle of the movie, one investigation ends and a new one promptly starts without any real pause or chance to unload the information that we keep being bombarded with. In hindsight I firmly believe this movie could have been more effective if broken down into three TV episodes, and there actually are more than three distinct scenes where such a cut could have been made.
Furthermore, while I found the ending to this movie to be both satisfying and thought-provoking I can also easily see how many people will miss its point altogether due to the ambiguous way in which the end is presented.
To its credit Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex: Solid State Society fares much better when the time to confront a physical enemy is at hand. The action flows gracefully and is done in good quantities and taste. It manages to take our minds off the cumbersome investigation, if only for a little bit.
I usually favor watching the Ghost in the Shell franchise in Japanese but the English dub in this movie outshines the Japanese dub in every way. Even though all the Japanese actors from the TV series reprise their parts here some of the side characters of Section 9 have strange speech quirks that didn’t exist in the TV series. Major Kusanagi is off-key and sound much older than her TV counterpart. The minor characters in this movie often mumble and swallow words in an unprofessional manner. All of these culminate into a somewhat unpleasant Japanese dub. On the other hand the English dub is crystal clear and manages to be more consistent and more accurate than its counterpart. It even improves relatively to the English dubs that were used in the TV series, making it the best GITS: SAC dub yet. Add this to the fact that the English and Japanese tracks were equally recorded as 5.1 Dolby TrueHD and you have a clear winner.
Alongside the movie one can find several extra features, some of which are highly entertaining. The “Work World File” is a 30 minutes long featurette that explains the basics of the Ghost in the Shell universe, before delving into the Solid State Society case. Not only is it the best entry point for newcomers to the franchise by far, it’s also a good watch for those who want to learn more details about the movie itself overall. Another praiseworthy extra is the “Making of Tachikoma” documentary that shows us how one scientist created an operating Tachikoma robot in real life (how cool is that!)
Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex: Solid State Society is one sweet deal. It has some bitter spots: long runtime, nonstop info-dumps and the reuse of old music. Nonetheless it has an intelligent plot, delivers great action and is even easy for newcomers to pick up. More importantly due to its focus on cybercrime and action it is the most accomplished manifestation of what Ghost in the Shell stands for, making it the best GITS title to date.
- Intelligent plot
- Good action
- Recycled music
- Too cumbersome for a movie.
Final Score: 8.5/10 (Great)
Product Information: Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex: Solid State Society Blu-ray by Manga Entertainment. Release Date: June 21, 2011.
Review Equipment: A Samsung 32-Inch LCD HDTV (LA32B530) connected to a PS3 using a ver. 1.4 HDMI cable.
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