Ghost in the Shell
Directed by: Rupert Sanders
Starring: Scarlett Johansson, Michael Pitt, Pilou Asbæk, Chin Han, Juliet Binoche, Takeshi Kitano
Distributed by: Paramount Pictures
Run time: 106 minutes
Release date: March 31, 2017
Synopsis: In a future run completely by technology and the lines between humanity and AI are blurred, the Major and the operative of Section 9 try to enforce the law as best possible. But when a secret is exposed that threatens the Major and her team, can they uncover the truth before it destroys them all.
To be completely honest, I didn’t think that Ghost in the Shell was that bad a film. Yes, there are some deviations in the film from the original anime series that inspired it, but I felt that as a standalone project and taking heavy influence from the anime it was a pretty good film. Aesthetically, it was as stunning and awe-inspiring as one could imagine, capturing perfectly the Pan-Asian scenes that the original film was set in. As for the sound and score of the film, I also felt that this was laid as close to the original material as possible, with an incredible score provided by Clint Mansell and Lorne Balfe. Story wise, I could have done with a story more closely related to the original anime, but for what it presented, I was entertained with what I was presented on screen to take in. I won’t get into the whole casting issues people seem to be taking with the film as, from what I understand from friends overseas and the fan community over there, there really was no issue taken with the casting for the film and it generally seems to be a more Western issue than it is with fans and the community in Japan. That being said, it is all I will say on the matter.
Back to the film, I wish that I would have seen more of the story that was presented in the original 1995 Ghost in the Shell anime film. I couldn’t quite get why they went with the whole backstory for her that they did in the film, and I thought it took away from the mystique of the character as there is very little revealed about the Major’s past throughout the various incarnations of the character over the franchises’ run, but I get that the general film going public needs something to cling to so that they may better connect and empathize with the character – I just feel that it was too much and took away from the uniqueness of the character.
I also had an issue with the Hanka Robotics storyline that drove the film and who’s CEO, Cutter, acted as the film’s antagonist. It just didn’t fit or feel right as it pertains to what I understand of the original source material of Ghost in the Shell. It just felt tacked on because the writers couldn’t quite make anything of the cyberpunk story that made the original film so popular, and I blame this on the limitations that both Jamie Ross and Ehren Kruger have as writers and Rupert Sanders has as a director. You can tell that they tried to stay as close to that as they could, and I am glad that the film retains that grave tone and conveys the dangers of relying on technology as much as we do, but to divert from that true cyberpunk story of individualism vs connectivity story that was originally presented – it took from the story a bit too much.
However, when you look at the film and what it does right – the look and feel of the film’s set pieces and locales, the sound and score that sounds familiar yet alien and foreign, and some great performances by Johansson and Asbæk, and especially Takeshi Kitano (who was severely underutilized in the film), really made for an entertain movie going experience. The pacing at the beginning of the film may set some aside, but I think that it perfectly set up the final third act of the film, or as good as it could be given the limitations of the script that I previously described. As a fan of the anime, I have to take a step back from my feelings for it and look at the film as its own existence – like a movie going fan watching it for the first time with no knowledge of the source material. When I look at the film as a total newbie to the story, it really is not as bad as many people, fans of the anime and manga especially, are making it out to be.
Ghost in the Shell could have been and should have been a better film than was presented to viewers, but when you got the guys who wrote Street Kings (Moss) and Reindeer Games and three of the Transformers movies (Kruger) and the guy who directed that piece of tripe film, Snow White and the Huntsman (Sanders), heading the film… it was as much that we got a film as good as it was. Yes, fans of the series are decrying the film as just another Hollywood cash grab on a popular property, and they aren’t that far off – but looking at the film with fresh eyes, as most moviegoers are going to do, it is a decent and entertaining film that I could watch again… when it releases on home media.