(In theaters, January 2005) As a rabid fan of the first Ghost In The Shell, I had high expectations for the sequel, all of which were dashed. In a bizarro reversal on the strategy of playing up a first film’s strengths, Innocence revels in the first film’s worst traits and forgets nearly everything that made it so good. In a nutshell, Innocence is a simplistic fifteen minute film stretched over more than an hour and a half. The rest of the time is spent spouting nonsense at tediously low bandwidth. While Major Kusanagi is good for a cameo voice appearance, Batou simply isn’t strong enough as a protagonist: He is adrift without a strong anchor, and the hound dog doesn’t cut it. Innocence is not without its good moments; the last fifteen minutes, once the action starts again, is good in ways that remind us of the first film, and some odd scenes here and there (the intro; the barely-coherent convenience store shootout; the repeated sequences) have at least the potential to be interesting. Plot-wise, though, this film is a mess (yeah, just go in and start shooting the Yakuzas… that’ll work), and it doesn’t even try to cover up its worst problems through fast pacing. Worse is the philosophy: Unless something went horribly wrong in translation, you could find more philosophical insights in the third Matrix film (yes, the third) than this one. Yikes; don’t be surprised if the endless droning just drives you to sleep. On the visual front, the CGI is much nicer than in the original film, but the traditional character animation now clashes with the background more than ever, a problem that is only becoming more jarring as animated films keep depending on this half-and-half technique. Go rent the original again and temper your expectations again regarding this sequel.