Twenty-five years later, Mamoru Oshii's Ghost in the Shell remains a revolutionary sci-fi masterpiece, tackling existential themes and philosophical dilemmas in a thought-provoking and challenging storyline that respects the intelligence of its audience. The beloved anime classic questions humanity on 4K Ultra HD equipped with a beautiful Dolby Vision HDR presentation, an excellent Dolby Atmos track and a small but new set of bonuses. Overall, the UHD edition is a decided step-up over previous releases and Recommended.
In 1995, Ghost in the Shell, based on the popular manga of the same name by Masamune Shirow, took audiences by surprise, tackling existential themes and philosophical dilemmas that were novel and subversive at the time. When the internet was slowly becoming the choice of communication, Kazunori Ito's script touched on pertinent ideas where a not-too-distant future is fully interconnected via a vast digital network and borders are essentially meaningless. Nevertheless, nations and governments continue deciding foreign relations based on outmoded political ideologies. Cybercrimes and cyber warfare are a serious threat to national security, prompting the need for specialized police forces where special agent Major Motoko Kusanagi serves as the team leader. And these dangerous threats open doors to more troubling concerns about our humanity and sense of self.
In this cyberpunk future, people access the web through cybernetic bodies, and cyborgs have become a normal part of life. While on the hunt for the highly mysterious hacker Puppet Master, Kusanagi starts pondering her own identity and the illusion of a soul when a majority of her body is augmented and synthetic — a "shell." But her cognizant brain is filled with memories of a life lived, informing her understanding of a unique personality, consciousness and any ideas of a soul — a "ghost." In conversations with her trusted partner Batou, she muses on concrete definitions of "human," especially when the mind can be transplanted into artificial bodies. Twenty-five years later, Mamoru Oshii's Ghost in the Shell remains a revolutionary sci-fi masterpiece that pushed the boundaries of animation into unprecedented territory, demonstrating that this type of filmmaking can be beautiful and thought-provoking while following a challenging storyline that respected the intelligence of its audience.
For a more in-depth take on the movie, you can read our review of the 2014 Blu-ray HERE.
Vital Disc Stats: The Ultra HD Blu-ray
Lionsgate Home Entertainment brings Ghost in the Shell to 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray as a two-disc combo pack with a flyer for a Digital Copy. The code can be redeemed via moviesredeem.com or through VUDU where users can unlock the 4K Dolby Vision version with Dolby Atmos audio. The triple-layered UHD100 disc sits comfortably opposite the same Region A locked, BD50 disc, and both discs are housed inside a black, eco-cutout case with a glossy slipcover. At startup, the disc goes straight to an animated menu screen with music playing in the background and the usual options along the bottom.
Finally, Major Kusanagi receives the justice she deserves on Ultra HD, equipped with an excellent HEVC H.265 encode, making the best the classic sci-fi anime has ever looked on any format.
Coming from a brand-new restoration and remaster of the original elements, the native 4K transfer displays a notable upgrade in contrast and brightness balance. Whites are significantly brighter and cleaner throughout while specular highlights enjoy a crisper, more resplendent glow, supplying an impressively radiant pop during action sequences. Deep, inky rich blacks allow for silky midnight shadows to penetrate deep into the screen without crushing the finer details, providing the 1.85:1 image with a great deal of appreciable depth.
Overall definition also offers a marked improvement, showing cleaner distinct lines in practically every scene. The lettering on signs and buildings in old New Port is intelligible and discrete, and some of the gorier, action-packed sequences are striking. Granted, the hazy, soft-focus photography keeps the visuals on the softer side of things, but comparatively, the 2160p video is sharper and better-looking than previous releases.
Along the with the deliberately soft look, the filmmakers went with a noticeably restrained color palette, and the Dolby Vision HDR presentation remains true to that aesthetic choice. Nevertheless, primaries appear a tad bolder and fuller than before, especially the steely cobalt blues of night scenes and in the abandoned building at the end while the reds of flashing lights are a richer crimson cherry. Meanwhile, secondary hues are accurately rendered and better saturated, such as in the peachy-pink faces of the characters and a lovely hint of lavender, violet or magenta tones in some areas.
All in all, this is a beautiful, eye-catching presentation of a beloved, thought-provoking classic. (Dolby Vision Video Rating: 82/100)
Along with the video, existential questions have also been upgraded to a pair of fantastic, highly engaging Dolby Atmos soundtracks in English and Japanese. The improvements are immediate once Kenji Kawai's celebrated musical score comes in. The percussion section swells with bells evocatively ringing across the entire screen while the vocals of the choir hauntingly echo all around the listening area. Additionally, the visuals come alive with various sound effects flawlessly panning from the fronts to the sides and above, like the scenes with helicopters flying overhead or water dripping from the ceiling. Although much of the action and focus in on the front, the object-based track is impressive and satisfyingly immersive.
However, where this version still feels similar and comparable to its lossless predecessors is in the low-end. Low-frequency effects remain terribly lacking and almost nonexistent even though there is just enough bass to provide explosions and gunfire with some weight and presence. Crisp, well-prioritized dialogue effectively travels on the screen with a character's movement, but the mid-range is not particularly extensive although it still maintains excellent detailing and clarity throughout. Nevertheless, distinct background activity seamlessly employs all three front channels with outstanding balance, and with several other minor ambient effects bleeding into the top heights, this new Atmos track generates an awesome half-dome environ that's terrifically captivating and the preferred method of enjoyment. (Dolby Atmos Audio Rating: 78/100)
A pair of new featurettes join a new commentary track the Ultra HD while the accompanying Blu-ray disc adds another pair vintage bonuses focused on the production and animation.
Ultra HD Disc
For many contemporary moviegoers, Ghost in the Shell may not seem like the revolutionary sci-fi masterpiece it's endlessly celebrated for, especially when other movies with similar themes are readily available. But back in 1995, the film took audiences by surprise with themes that felt relatively fresh, and it has made a lasting, influential impact that can still be seen today. Celebrating its 25th Anniversary, the beloved anime classic questions humanity on 4K Ultra HD equipped with a beautiful Dolby Vision HDR presentation, struck from a brand-new 4K remaster of the original elements, and complemented by an excellent Dolby Atmos soundtrack. With a new but sadly small set of supplements, this UHD edition is a notable improvement over previous releases and a recommended addition to the library.