I'd like to start out by saying that the artwork and animation in this film are gorgeous. Truly beautiful art, stunningly realistic animations. My only complaints about the art are pretty typical anime complaints: everyone's hair looks like leaves from some kind of weird plant growth on their head, and there is no detail in anyone's face, so everyone pretty much looks alike, except for having different colored leaves on their heads. This is truest of the 2 female lead characters, who are virtually indistinguishable looking.
Where the movie fails is in the story, the characters, character reactions, the science, the sociology, and nearly everything else that doesn't have to do with the visual aspect of the film.
The movie contradicts it's own internal logic over and over again. It ignores basic physics, biology and sociology. Here's some examples:
1. People in huge metal exo-suits are able to "sneak" around. They can smash thru house walls, but when they infiltrate a house, they move like a commando team, as if no one can hear the incredible racket that half a dozen 8 foot tall "robots" would make. Somehow the exo-suited people are able to climb stairs that could in no way hold their weight.
2. People in exos are surprised by a group of RPG launching soldiers. Why wouldn't these exos have radar, or other "bio signature" reading capabilities?
3. The mission they are on requires a device to be active for 3 minutes. Why is the exfil for their mission 72 hours after insertion? Makes no sense.
4. When the last ditch effort to crush Daiwa happens, it is foiled because the tunnels are a greater distance from the facility than thought. One of the bad guys opines "jags aren't much for jumping" as an explanation for why the facility is safe. WTF? We just spent like 20 minutes watching these things swim thru dirt and leap hundreds of feet into the air, covering hundreds of lateral feet per jump.
5. People react all wrong to emotional triggers. Vexille cries out in aguish at Maria's death. WTF? She just met Maria, and Maria isn't even human. Vexille is upset that Maria shot Takeshi after he "turned". Why? She just met Takeshi, and she knows he isn't human anymore. Vexille is also perturbed by many small horrors, all of which are not realistic depictions, IMO, of this character. She's a freaking special ops commando, one of the most elite of elite, yet she's bothered by little things even more than a 1950s sitcom mom would have been.
6. There's just too much more in the film that isn't believable, isn't at all true to real life, and which violates the conventions set up in the film. If a film's own internal logic isn't consistent, it's difficult if not impossible to understand and empathize with what's happening, and that's what happens in this film. (It's understandable, if complete nonsense, but there's no way to empathize or feel anything for anyone in this film.)
7. Which leads to this point: there is no real attempt to give us any characters with any depth whatsoever. Everyone in the film is so flat that they are aren't just two dimensional, they are nearly one-dimensional.
The few early attempts to humanize even the humans in film are too short (Vexille talking to a fellow commando asks him if he heard from his wife/girlfriend and he says "not since she left" and that's it.
One quick shot of Vexille and Leon together at home, to establish their relationship; a reluctant embrace after a confrontation about Leon's past, and that's it. Other than that, everyone in the movie is a prop, including Vexille.
8. It's fine to play loose with science in science fiction, but visually its hard to watch enormous heavy things flying on rockets that can turn on a dime, as if they had no inertia of their own. Weight, mass, inertia are all absent from the world this film inhabits.
9. I just wanted to point out, since others have made comments about Paul Oakenfold's involvement, that Paul Oakenfold is a DJ. He did not write the music for this film, he simply selected songs for it. Mr. Oakenfold is very good at what he does, and for the most part the music fit the scenes it was paired with, but to credit him with "the music" is wrong. He just picked the songs, he didn't write and record them.
Much of the film was maddening to watch, since it was so ridiculous, yet I've watched this 3 times now and will likely watch it more. Why? It's amazing to look at. The visual style, the colors, the lighting, the camera-work (yes, the camera-work!) are all stunning, and they are so overwhelmingly awesome that they make the movie watchable.
If we could just get a story from a manga writer that wasn't a) completely incomprehensible, b)hackneyed beyond belief, and c) filled with crappy pseudo-philosophical undertones (I'm looking at you, Ghost In The Shell... and Akira... and Appleseed... and nearly every other anime that isn't Dragonball Z) there is no doubt in my mind that mainstream audiences would be excited about the format and turn out in droves to see it.
Overall, if you like anime already, I'd be surprised if you didn't like this film. If you're new to anime, you'll probably like this film. If you think that The Matrix Revolutions and Reloaded were the best thing to happen to movies EVAH, you'll prolly like this.
If you thought that Phantom Menace was crap, if you didn't bother with anything Star Trek since they added psychics, if you hold out on seeing a movie because Ben Affleck is in it without Kevin Smith directing... you may want to just rent this one, or even better, get a friend to rent it.