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Ghost in the Shell - Movie Review

Updated: Feb 18, 2021

Ghost in the Shell directed by Mamoru Oshii, originally came out in 1995. Since then, there have been several follow-up books, films, TV series, and video games. There is also a new movie scheduled to hit theaters at the end of March – Ghost in the Shell (2017). In the 1995 original film, the story takes place in the year 2029, an age where humans and cyborgs coexist. The adversary of the film, “The Puppet Master,” is a self-aware, conscious being that spawned from the sea of information on the net. Major Motoko Kusanagi, the main character who is also a cyborg, attempts to track down The Puppet Master throughout the firm.

Motoko thinks deeply about the meaning of existence and the meaning of life. The movie often reviews to a concept of “ghost” or rather consciousness, which Motoko examines further. What is most interesting about the movie is that it came out in 1995, and starts to explore the fascinating subject of how the meaning of life may change along with technology. That is, will the meaning of life change as we begin to integrate humans with technology? How will artificial intelligence view the meaning of life? The movie was well ahead of its time.

Below are some notable quotes from the movie which explore the concept of consciousness, purpose, and the meaning of life.

1) Batou: Even a simulated experience or a dream is simultaneous reality and fantasy.

2) Major Motoko Kusanagi: There are countless ingredients that make up the human body and mind, like all the components that make up me as an individual with my own personality. Sure I have a face and voice to distinguish myself from others, but my thoughts and memories are unique only to me, and I carry a sense of my own destiny. Each of those things are just a small part of it. I collect information to use in my own way. All of that blends to create a mixture that forms me and gives rise to my conscience. I feel confined, only free to expand myself within boundaries.

3) Puppet Master: It can also be argued that DNA is nothing more than a program designed to preserve itself. Life has become more complex in the overwhelming sea of information. And life, when organized into species, relies upon genes to be its memory system. So, man is an individual only because of his intangible memory... and memory cannot be defined, but it defines mankind. The advent of computers, and the subsequent accumulation of incalculable data has given rise to a new system of memory and thought parallel to your own. Humanity has underestimated the consequences of computerization.

4) Puppet Master: I refer to myself as an intelligent life form because I am sentient and I am able to recognize my own existence, but in my present state I am still incomplete. I lack the most basic processes inherent in all living organisms: reproducing and dying.

Major Motoko Kusanagi: But you can copy yourself.

Puppet Master: A copy is just an identical image. There is the possibility that a single virus could destroy an entire set of systems and copies do not give rise to variety and originality. Life perpetuates itself through diversity and this includes the ability to sacrifice itself when necessary. Cells repeat the process of degeneration and regeneration until one day they die, obliterating an entire set of memory and information. Only genes remain. Why continually repeat this cycle? Simply to survive by avoiding the weaknesses of an unchanging system.

Major Motoko Kusanagi: You talk about redefining my identity. I want a guarantee that I can still be myself.

Puppet Master: There isn't one. Why would you wish to? All things change in a dynamic environment. Your effort to remain what you are is what limits you.

Overall, the movie does well at getting people to question the nature of consciousness and its relationship to the meaning of life. At one point in the movie, the characters even question how a machine can develop a ghost without human components. As such, are we just ghosts in a shell, or are there levels of consciousness and spirituality above and beyond what is physical? If humans achieve immortality, will the meaning of it all become pointless just as the Puppet Master pondered? What is life without change and evolution? In the end, the Puppet Master comes to the realization that immortality for an unchanging identity may be inconsequential, and strives to coalesce with Motoko in order to evolve.

Ghost in the Shell is a rather intricate movie—intertwining philosophy and technology into one seemingly coherent masterpiece. With that said, tell us what we missed, what part you liked, and how the movie relates to the meaning of life.

We rate the movie the following:

Overall - 8

Meaning of Life Relevance -8

Uniqueness – 9

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