| In the near future, Major is the first of her kind: A human saved from a terrible crash, who is cyber-enhanced to be a perfect soldier devoted to stopping the world’s most dangerous criminals.
Ghost in the Shell began life in 1989 as an acclaimed manga series before ballooning in popularity thanks to the fantastic 1995 animated film (along with a later sequel as well as an animated series) that has inspired a countless number of science-fiction features in the two decades since. In visual spirit and splendor, the Scarlett Johansson lead film is absolutely mesmerizing to watch. However, it comes at an intellectual cost. While I’m saying the film isn’t fantastic, I also don’t see it disappointing that many fans. It really depends on what kind of mindset you go into movie.
I did enjoy the film on the whole in large part due to the visuals, with many iconic scenes and technologies being portrayed almost scene for scene without being a direct copy due to the story adjustment, if you are a fan of anything Cyberpunk, this is pretty much the closest thing to looking like Neuromancer’s world on a big screen with today’s effects. The world looks very gorgeous and it looks lived in and sleek. The film uses color in some visually satisfying ways.
The action, surprisingly, was also an enjoyable aspect of the film, with no shakycam nonsense and generally clear geography. The soundtrack by Clint Mansell and Lorne Balfe was fantastic. Another neon synth-esque soundtrack that actually fits quite well and often suggests a film better than what is actually happening on screen.
Johansson walks the fine line between machine like precision acting and heart, giving a balanced performance combined with dominating physical force. I believe Johansson fits in quite nicely does justice to the character. Also well casted are Pilou Asbæk as Batou, and Takeshi Kitano (from the fantastic ‘Battle Royale’) as Major’s Chief Aramaki.
“Never send a rabbit to kill a fox.”
The movie is not perfect though. It did suffer from having a cookie-cutter plot. Claims of style over substance may hold some validity, but I’ve never found that criticism to be exclusively a negative thing in all cases, and this is without a doubt an instance where the amount of sensory appeasing style overcomes the fact that the film is lacking in any real depth or stimulation on a more lasting, significant level. It’s not for lack of trying necessarily, as the story does involve some themes of identity in the technological age and the increasing blur between human and machine, that has been explored in a great many films as of late, but that’s the thing that really holds it back more than anything.
The plot does not defer too much from the original source, but in some ways it does. Major’s motivations and mannerisms in the story are driven by her need to know more about her past as she learns to cope with her inhuman body. In this respect, the biggest missed opportunity was the philosophical nature of what made Ghost in the Shell such an intriguing premise: an artificially created cybernetic organism wanting to experience birth, death, and evolution were huge talking pieces that could have added more weight to its plot, rather than underscore the intelligence of audiences by adding more action. In this respect, the film really could have benefited from the “less is more” by telling a story with brains to match its heart and equally compelling, visual shell.
And about this so-called “white-washing” controversy, I find it hard to understand that people started to complain about this. The director of the anime Mamoru Oshii, have continuously said that the original film did not specify the particular race, and ethnicity of the central character, which is a legitimate counter argument in my opinion. Now I’ve seen the film with an Asian friend from Japan and he really liked Scarlett Johannson being cast in the lead role and he wasn’t offended to the slightest. I’m saying this because I just wish people would stop using these so-called issues as a means to make a living by either being professionally outraged on behalf of them, or purposefully inflame an issue when there is absolutely nothing to be outraged about. But I’m pretty sure that by me being a white guy, my opinion still won’t classify about this issue *rolls eyes*.
Overall, Ghost in the Shell isn’t a great film by any measure, but as far as your eyes and ears go, it is a wonder to behold, and the issues in the script aren’t enough to derail it in a large-scale fashion. They definitely stop it from reaching potentially higher heights, but this isn’t remotely the disaster it seemed like it was destined to be.
‘Ghost In The Shell’ gets a 7.0/10
Shot on 35's Rating Sheet: 9.5 – 10.0: Excellent! 8.5 – 9.5: Fantastic, but with minor flaws 7.5 – 8.5: Great, but with issues 6.5 – 7.5: Okay, but with major issues 5.5 – 6.5: Had potential, but falls flat hard. 4.5 – 5.5: Disaster!
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