Ghost in the Shell review
Let’s talk about anime. For those that don’t know, anime is animation that is produced in Japan. What separates it from American animation is that while the craft is seen as family-based entertainment in the states, it is taken very seriously in Japan. It’s hard to describe it on paper, but when you see stuff like Sailor Moon, Speed Racer, Cowboy Bebop (an all-time favorite of mine) and anything from Studio Ghibli, you’ll see what I mean. This has been the same when it comes to full anime movies. This had led to a lot of Japanese movies that have even seen releases in the states like Akira, Pokémon: The First Movie, and the subject of today, Ghost in the Shell.
The 1995 original film is seen not just as an excellent anime, but one of the best-animated movies in general. It’s themes of artificial intelligence, computer hacking, and blurring the line between human and robots were perfect to explore as the mid nineties had seen a growth in computer usage. A live action adaptation could potentially work, but the track record of American remakes of anime has been bad (Speed Racer and Dragonball: Evolution being such). Let’s see if the new Ghost in the Shell can break that curse.
In the near future in Japan, Major Killian (played by Scarlett Johansson) is a cyborg with a human brain after her original body was destroyed beyond repair and was chosen in an experiment by Hanka Robotics to put her mind into a mechanical body. Now she works for Section 9, an anti-terrorist bureau whose mission is to stop major hacking. She’s really good at her job, but experiences occasional visions that her maker dismisses as glitches. With the help of her second in command Batou (played by Pilou Asbæk), the city seems safe,
During one mission, they stop a terrorist attack at a Hanka business conference. They use a destroyed rouge robot to find out that the perpetrator is a hacker named Kuze. Though they manage to catch to garbage men who worked for him, they find that little is known about Kuze. The race is on the clock to find him, only for Major to start considering more about her life before becoming a cop as she does not remember any of it.
I’ll clarify now that this does not follow the 1995 original movie, but rather Ghost in the Shell adapts elements from it’s TV series and manga source to tell something original. This one adapts more of an identity finding story along with the notion of stopping a terrorist. The good news is that the story is good…for a while. Also like the 1995 original, this can get heavy within it’s own world. I started losing interest about halfway in when I was starting to lose track on what the goals were. This I blame on the acting of Scarlet Johansson, who I normally love in other movies, but she is so wooden. Taking the whitewashing controversy out of it, I’d still say the performance wouldn’t have worked due to the directing of Rupert Sanders.
The film seems to be better at directing the world around our heroes as it looks really cool. A lot of people will probably say that it’s a lot like Blade Runner, but consider that it’s been a while since we’ve seen something like this. The action scenes also do a good job recreating scenes from the anime while adding in some stylized fighting.
Another problem however is that its 2017. We’ve gotten a lot of movies about computer hacking and AI identity (such as The Matrix series, A.I., Ex Machina), so what’s this version of Ghost in the Shell going to add? Much of the deep philosophy from the anime is removed and what is kept seems a bit redundant and feels like has been said before.
I’ll give this three anime pictures of Major out of five. Ghost in the Shell works better as an action movie when not comparing it to the original. I’d still say watch the anime, but you might get something out of this if your just looking for action. This adaptation is a lot like a cyborg; looks good, but lacks little humanity under the surface.