A gang of us went to see Innocence last night, and, well, I wasn’t too impressed. The visual imagery was incredible, and the story was pretty involved, but as with any Mamoru Oshii movie, the story gets bogged down in a bunch of existentialist mumbo-jumbo. Of course, you can’t really expect much more from a Japanese movie, but it seems that the writer decided to rehash a conversation with himself on the nature of consciousness in the middle of the movie. Sadly, it’s a conversation we’ve heard before.
Personally, I don’t really mind the existential questions, but all the questions are the same questions that were asked in Ghost in the Shell, and Avalon. Ghost in the Shell and Innocence both display the struggle the writer has with the nature of consciousness. Both moves take place is a society at least 50 years in the future. This society has become so technically advanced that cybernetics has become commonplace. During both movies, the characters ponder how much of their biological selves they can replace with artificial components before they cease to be human.
The main character of the first movie, Motoko Kusanagi, has none of her biological self left, and is full of self-doubt. These doubts are compounded when an artificial intellegence begins to crack into robots (in the context of the movie, robots are different from cybernetic people because they lack a “ghost”, or real human soul.)
From a heathen perspective, such self-doubt is absolutely justified. A perspective that rejects God must also reject the divine author of their souls. Without the scriptures to tell us that “we have a soul that can never die”, we must consider our consciousness to arise from the biological functions of our brain. As Christians, though, we know that our soul exists apart from the physical workings of our bodies, and we know that our souls will exist after our physical bodies stop working. The heathen has no such assurance, yet they struggle to come to grips with that belief.
In Romans 1:18-31, the Apostle Paul tells us that nature gives clear evidence, even to the unbeliever, that the Triune God of the Bible exists. One of the nature evidences that the unbelieve must acknowledge is that our minds exist apart our physical bodies. As much as the unbeliever would love to believe that our minds are illusions created by us, we all know (believer and unbeliever) that this is not the case. This struggle is what the cybernetic characters in Ghost in the Shell are dealing with everyday. The cannot live with the idea that their conscience disappears when their bodily functions cease.
While the sequel is beautifully executed and illustrated, in my mind, it really didn’t add anything to the philosophical discussion. Of course, it didn’t need to add anything if they wanted to focus on the plot, but so much time was spent in philosophical dialog, and ignoring the plot, that it really didn’t keep my interest. The world created in Ghost in the Shell is an amazing place, and I was disappointed that the writers insisted on rehashing old ideas, rather than explore other questions that would be raised in this society.