- on Thursday, 30 March 2017 22:35
- by Loron Hays
British filmmaker Rupert Sanders (Snow White and the Huntsman) really wants audiences to consider his version of Ghost in the Shell as equivalent to the mighty rush and crush of Replicants in Blade Runner. With cityscape visuals as striking as the ones in his movie, it’s hard not to recall the junked-up look of Ridley Scott’s classic film.
But you probably already guessed that from the trailers. Cyberpunk, once again, proves to be more human than human as it pauses to give voice to everything supposedly synthetic.
While Ghost in the Shell isn’t on the same cerebral level as Scott’s work, it is just as dour and drab. That’s not necessarily detracting from its overall appeal, but anyone expecting all neon and techno-like spunk might be a little letdown by this film’s more Kubrick-like approach to the material. The film is more haunted by humans than you’d guess.
This version of the manga is an interesting film that is expertly shot and it fully commits to bringing the beloved tale to life with strong performances from its cast. What is true about the live-action film – and what must be applauded – is that this version of Ghost in the Shell, while it does tip its hat to its animated predecessor, is its own film.
Ghost in the Shell, due to its casting of Scarlett Johansson (who nails it here and truly deserves a franchise), got dinged early on. Some fans that, as a result of Johansson’s involvement, won’t pay to see it have already condemned the film. Honestly, this is their loss. The live-action world that comes to life on the screen – courtesy of the wizards over at WETA – is pretty damn good in its own right. As a result, the movie is visually arresting, exciting in its action, and delivers some hard candy as food for thought.
It is also extremely faithful to the original manga comic by Shirow Masamune and, in an interesting way, actually improves upon certain weaker aspects of the celebrated comic and movie. At first glance, the casting of Johansson as Major, a cyborg counter-cyberterrorist field commander, seems like a big, bold, and BLIND stroke of whitewashing from a major studio. In the context of the multinational movie, though, it absolutely works.
Truthfully, this is a science fiction movie with a message that its multinational cast delivers rather successfully. Ironically, it is a story of self-identity – when reduced to its bare bones – and in it, as Mamoru Oshii (the director of the original film) has repeatedly suggested, the themes don’t limit themselves based on one culture or the other. The point being that ANYONE could play Major.
For those unfamiliar with Major’s story, Ghost in the Shell is about a task force, called Section 9, whose sole purpose – in the near future – is to track down terrorists turned hackers and the rampant chaos they cause to corporations and to citizens through deadly viral attacks. So, yes, the action beats are wild. There’s a hyper-realized sense of thrills in the action scenes. The drop in the energy level when the film becomes reflective through Major’s memories is noticeable, though.
Co-starring Pilou Asbaek as Batou, Major’s partner, and Michael Pitt as Kuze, the terrorist that begins the whole cyborg shakeup, and Japanese film guru Takeshi Kitano as Chief Daisuke Aramaki, the film plunges the depth of Hanka Robotics' artificial intelligence technology and reveals some ugly truths along the way. Most you can guess and, of course, if you’ve ever seen the movie, then you already know.
Whether pressured by the studio or not, the scenes the movie replicates – especially Major’s “birth” scene –should please fans. There’s a respect delivered here that is matched later on when Sanders makes improvements to the narrative and its treatment of the villain. The world of the future gets rocked once again by this story that examines the blurring lines between tech and humanity.
Ghost in the Shell, however synthetic and slight, remains a haunting tale of humanity.
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence, suggestive content and some disturbing images
Runtime: 107 mins
Director: Rupert Sanders
Writer: Jamie Moss
Cast: Scarlett Johansson, Pilou Asbæk, Takeshi Kitano
Genre: Action | Sci-fi
Tagline: Ghost in the Shell.
Memorable Movie Quote: "They did not save your life. They stole it."
Theatrical Distributor: Paramount Pictures
Official Site: http://ghostintheshell.tumblr.com/
Release Date: March 31, 2017
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date: No details available.
Synopsis: Based on the internationally acclaimed sci-fi property, “GHOST IN THE SHELL” follows Major, a special ops, one-of-a-kind human-cyborg hybrid, who leads the elite task force Section 9. Devoted to stopping the most dangerous criminals and extremists, Section 9 is faced with an enemy whose singular goal is to wipe out Hanka Robotic’s advancements in cyber technology.
No details available.