Ghost in the Shell appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. This turned into an erratic presentation.
One perplexing distraction arose: windowboxing. For reasons unknown, the movie used a moderately thick box that surrounded the image on all four sides. This was unnecessary and annoying.
Even without that concern, the transfer seemed like a mix bag. Overall sharpness worked fairly well, though the movie lacked the clarity I’d expect. This meant that we got a reasonably concise presentation much of the time, but definition rarely seemed genuinely strong, and occasional soft spots materialized.
I saw no signs of shimmering or jagged edges, and the movie lacked edge haloes. It also came without any print flaws.
Colors tended toward green and blue, and they looked decent. While the hues lacked great range, they usually offered acceptable reproduction, though occasional instances of red lighting looked a little too thick.
Blacks veered toward the pale side of the coin. While not washed-out, I thought those elements should’ve seemed darker. Shadows were fine; though not impressive, they revealed low-light material in an acceptable manner. Though not a bad image, Ghost was too inconsistent for a grade above a “C+”.
In terms of audio, viewers get a potentially difficult choice. The movie came with a DTS-HD MA 5.1 mix – in English only, unfortunately. If you want to watch the film in its original language, then you need to opt for the LPCM stereo track instead.
Which I did, as I felt the use of the original language trumped any advantages from the multichannel version – though I may not be right about that. From what I understand, this version used English subtitles that didn’t translate the original Japanese especially well.
Since this represented my first screening of Ghost, I couldn’t compare the Blu-ray to other versions. I did look to see how the subtitles matched the English dub, and the two were very different – the subtitles offered condensed recaps of the dialogue I heard.
However, that didn’t mean the English version got it right. Dubbed renditions tend to come with their own problems, so I certainly didn’t take the dialogue from the English cut to present an accurate translation of the original Japanese.
In any case, I did get the impression the subtitles didn’t do the job especially well. I felt like they left out snippets of dialogue and these could make the movie more confusing.
The subtitles also suffered from bad writing. Most of them were so simple that they still made sense, but some left me perplexed. If anyone knows what the heck “That body has as much device for brain science as it can hold” means, let me know!
So unless you speak Japanese, you get stuck with a compromised auditory experience in terms of dialogue, and the quality of the LPCM stereo mix didn’t seem all that great, either. Speech really did sound like it was recorded in a studio, as the lines suffered from an awkward feel.
Some of this may have been intentional to reflect the “network”, but I got more of a feeling that the recordings simply weren’t massaged to sound natural. Intelligibility was fine, but the lines failed to mesh with surroundings.
Effects tended to lack oomph. While those elements showed good clarity and didn’t suffer from distortion, these components didn’t present much range. This meant a distinct lack of low-end, a factor that robbed the louder moments of some impact.
Music fared best, especially in terms of the score’s percussive side. Those bits showed nice range, with warm bass. The music offered the smoothest, most vibrant part of the track.
Though restricted to the front channels, the soundscape worked pretty well. Music showed nice stereo presence, and effects were appropriately localized.
Those elements also moved across the speakers well and meshed together in a pleasing manner. Dialogue usually focused on the center, but some interesting localized speech appeared as well. Like the image, the soundtrack merited a “C+”.
The Blu-ray includes zero extras – not even a trailer!
Unlike most “cyber” films of the 1990s, Ghost in the Machine holds up well after more than two decades. The movie offers a rich philosophical tale with enough action to add spark. The Blu-ray comes with erratic picture and audio and it provides no supplements whatsoever. Though I like the movie, this Blu-ray disappoints.
Note that this 2017 Blu-ray appears to be a reissue of the 2014 “25th Anniversary” release. It comes in a new “steelbook” case but the disc itself seems to be the same one from 2014.