Mamoru Oshi’s landmark Ghost in the Shell – which superbly melds two-dimensional artwork and computer graphics – has rightly been decried for helping usher in an age of convoluted, spectacle-driven science fiction. Simply blasting the film’s surface-over-substance storytelling, however, is to shortchange its intriguing (if frequently pretentious) investigation into the nature of reality. Major Kusanagi is a cyborg cop with a soul (the titular “ghost” in her buxom shell) who, along with her mechanically enhanced partner Bato, is hot on the trail of a hacker known as The Puppetmaster. Major is plagued by nagging doubts about her own “humanity,” unsure of whether she was ever a person or, on the other hand, just programmed to believe in her organic origins. Her hunt for The Puppetmaster thus becomes a quest for identity, and what she ultimately learns from the notorious hacker – and what the philosophical film attempts to posit – is that a sentient entity (human or synthetic) is defined by its capacity for memories, self-analysis, reproduction, and death. Such questions about the complex relationship between man and machine are juvenilely gussied up with Oshi’s voluptuous nude fembots, with Major regularly undressing before engaging in battle (such as during a thrilling, if brief, fight with a six-legged tank). But inflated boobies aside, the influential Ghost in the Shell – a film the Wachowskis repeatedly “borrowed from” for The Matrix – delivers a fairly entrancing vision of a human race overrun by evolving artificial intelligence.