Release Date: March 31, 2017
Director: Rupert Sanders
Writer: Masamune Shirow, Jamie Moss, William Wheeler
Cast: Scarlett Johansson, Pilou Asbaek, Takeshi Kitano, Juliette Binoche, Michael Pitt, Chin Han, Danusia Samal, Lasarus Ratuere, Yutaka Izumihara, Tawanda Manyimo, Peter Ferdinando, Anamaria Marinca, Daniel Henshall, Mana Hira Davis, Erroll Anderson, Kai Fung Rieck, Andrew Stehlin, Matthias Luafutu, John Luafutu
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Runtime: 107 minutes
Production Company: Arad Productions, DreamWorks, Grosvenor ParkProductions, Paramount Pictures, Reliance Entertainment, Seaside Entertainment, Steven Paul Production
Genre: Action, Crime, Drama
Ghost in the Shell is arguably one of the most popular Japanese animations of all time. Ever since its original release back in 1995, fans from all around the world have raved about its excellence. For such a property, it was only inevitable that a studio would take hold of the rights to adapt it into a large blockbuster feature, and who could blame them with the technology that’s at studios disposal nowadays. If anything, this film deserves praise for its creativity as it jumps forward many decades into the future to show the audience a world that is possibly not that far from reality. The visual make up of the film is what steals the show, though that’s not saying much. There are a few action beats to get the blood flowing, but just like the main character is described as a “Ghost in a Shell,” so is the film as there’s hardly any characters to latch unto.
Major (Scarlett Johansson) is told that she’s the first of her kind. A salvaged human brain that’s kept alive and sentient through a new robotic technology. It’s pretty freaking scary to think about it for too long, but the film is able to have a slight bit of humanity to attempt to lock you in. Her performance is that of a robot, being technical, cold, and unable to build emotional relationships that normal humans can. Her entire frame is not human, but on the outside looking in, it’s impossible to know the difference between a real-life body and her synthetic one. While Johansson played the part well, there isn’t much to her character to begin with. And just as she’s not able to make a connection with those around her, it’s extremely difficult for you to connect with her as well. She was great to look at on screen, and she did represent for justice when it was time to kick butt; but whether or not her character lived or died at the end of the movie, I simply didn’t care. There are two other nifty characters that are sure to catch your attention, Batou (Pilou Asbaek) and Aramaki (Takeshi Kitano). Both of them are able to handle themselves in a fight, but I still would not want to call on either of them for a favor.
If anything else, the setting of the world the characters engaged in was stunning. Lights, lights, and brighter lights filled every post or street corner, illuminating every square inch of land as if it were a rainbow. It’s something you’d never think would come to fruition. The scope of a large building with innovative advertising was remarkable, and also seemed realistic in today’s environment in certain forms. The advancement of human desire is another conversation starter, with more than seventy percent of the entire world open to robotics and cyber enhancement. There was no real way of being able to distinguish a human from a non-human, and it’s as easily accepted as rain falling from the sky. On another note, if you think you’re a hacker now, you have absolutely nothing on the hacking skills that were displayed in this film. It will make any computer nerd feel like they only know 2nd grade math. The action was sprinkled evenly throughout the film, but there was nothing that popped out at you that made you jump for joy. All of it was choreographed well, but it was nothing you haven’t seen before.
The biggest complaint I have is the plain jane villain that revealed itself towards the end in the final showdown. It was very anti-climactic, having no weight of suspense in the least bit. It was still entertaining, but disappointing as you’re waiting to see all the abilities Major has that end up falling short of anything special. Though I can honestly say I wasn’t bored, but I did want more in the end. It was like a good meal that you wish had an appetizer and dessert, but instead just had a main course.
Ghost in the Shell is not a movie for everyone, and there will be those that get bored. As far as the Japanese animation fans, I’m sure there’s some enjoyment to be had, but my instincts tell me that many will be upset with the adaptation. My expectations were low, with me not able to care any less, but I still had fun with a few parts; delving into the creativity of the designs with the world building, Major, and surrounding robotics. Though not everyone cares about such things, and they may want more; like a great story and relatable characters, which unfortunately are not present or disappear like a ghost.