Ghost in the Shell
The 1996 film “Ghost in the Shell” is a classic amongst many fans of animation. It had a clear vision, exploring unique and thought-provoking concepts. Its spin-off series, “Stand Alone Complex”, is also worthwhile, expanding the universe further in interesting ways. The announcement of a remake was met with some backlash once it was announced Scarlett Johannson would be playing the lead role of The Major as opposed to an Asian actress.
It’s easy then, for someone who feels that way about the casting, to go in to this movie expecting a train wreck. That isn’t quite the case, “Ghost in the Shell” exists in that bizarre netherregion of cinema where it is too competently made to be considered truly bad, but too misguided in its approach to be considered good.
The Major (Johannson) discovers that she was in a fatal accident, but was reconstructed by Hanka robotics. They then put her to work in a task force taking down terrorists. She is scarily good. As she and her team work on tracking down a terrorist named Kuze (Michael Pitt), it does begin to seem that there’s more to her story than it seems.
The first misguided choice is the Johansson casting, and the biggest reason in regards to the finished film is that it’s a weak performance. I don’t know what director Rupert Sanders did, but he took a charismatic and appealing actress and turned her wooden. Now, I am of the persuasion that it should have been a Japanese actress in the lead, if only because they set the film in Japan, use a predominately Japanese cast, and many of the names are Japanese as well. It is unlikely this movie would have given us much more with a Japanese Major (more on that coming).
There are more than a few things to admire about this remake, namely the technical work. The cinematography is gorgeous, and the set and costume design are close to spot on. The movie becomes an absolute treat for the eyes because of these elements. The choreography is also accomplished, the action scenes are a joy.
Some are more of a mixed bag, usually the effects look great, but there are some truly atrocious effects occasionally. The acting is so-so as well, while Johansson underwhelms, Pilou Asbaek is passable and Takeshi Kitano is a lot of fun.
The problem with the Major is how they try to explain why she’s white. Near the end of the movie it is revealed that this white woman used to be a young Japanese orphan named Motoko Kusanagi (the original name of the major). Now, on paper, the idea that a corporation would take a person of color to build a superweapon, and make that person white while they were doing so is an interesting idea. The movie doesn’t seem particularly interested in that though, neither that nor any concept of racism is explored. People are going to get quite mad at this change, and it seems like a missed opportunity.
I made a comparison to a friend, that “Ghost in the Shell” would be like “The Matrix Revolutions” (a series inspired by “Ghost in the Shell”) since despite the cool visuals the trailers and TV spots had made the movie look tedious. The film proper is a lot closer to “The Matrix Reloaded”, almost a good movie but falls short, and is frustrating to watch for that exact reason.
Written by Jeff Turner // Uploaded by Gabby Kesterson