I know I'll probably be miffing off a lot of hardcore fans later on in this post, but that can't be helped...
In hindsight, I actually did see the original Ghost in the Shell anime back in the nineties, but to my embarrassment, I hardly remember seeing it back then. It was only when I watched it on Youtube after seeing the live action one in the theater, that some vague recollections came to me.
But this meant that I was (nearly) unbiased when I went to see it with my friends. I was visually blown away by it and it sits firmly up there for me as one of the best cyberpunk (visual) references, together with Blade Runner, Strange Days, Existenz, Videodrome, Dredd and the Total Recalls (and maybe Gamer?).
Not knowing the original stories (not having read the manga's or remembering the anime's) obviously helped a lot in appreciating the movie as a whole. And I don't just mean the visuals; the story line was compelling too (not better or worse than many other movies), and I thoroughly enjoyed the entire experience.
When the credits rolled, I heard the many laments of hardcore fans around me and basically shrugged them off; I was clueless to its relation to much of the existing canon. So; like I mentioned, I watched the original afterwards, just so I could join in on the discussion.
And man; was I underwhelmed...
Seriously. It was enjoyable, don't get me wrong, but the whole philosophical undertones that many have waxed on about were just rather meh to me. Maybe it's because I've read, played and seen so much on this very theme, I don't know, but I do know that it has been done before, after and most of all; better. To be honest, (and this is not the anime/manga's fault, but rather the fanboy's), I find that it's been blown up to near mythical proportions, which to me comes across as pretentious, rather than thought provoking. (Hey; I did warn you at the start of my post...
I discussed this with a friend who really is a hardcore fan of the franchise, and the consensus was that back in the nineties, not having absorbed so much other material, the original anime must have been a true revelation to teenage minds. And over time, this has made the movie grow to a status beyond its actual scope, mostly due to the fans putting it on a pedestal.
But of course this also made the life action movie come about.
And it's not that I cannot relate; I was a true Transformers fan back in the day; cartoons, comics and toys, you name it. So when I heard a live action movie was being made with this IP, I was thrilled beyond sanity. But when the actual Michael Bay product was released, my disappointment almost reached the nerd-rage threshold. It was so untrue to my cherished memories and personal vision of how it should look, I could not be anything but massively disappointed.
So I take it, it was much the same for all the GitS fans out there.
But all in all, it is a thoroughly enjoyable movie in its own right, and even though I have mixed feelings about the whole
sequel thing, I certainly would not mind seeing another live action romp in the GitS universe...Disclaimer: I do have to agree with the fanboys on one thing though; the theme played during the 'birth' in the anime, should have been played in the same scene, as opposed to the end credits. It clearly belongs there...