In our Ghost in the Shell review, we discuss whether the 2017 movie is just another manga adaptation failure.
From Dragonball: Evolution to G-Saviour, live-action adaptations of anime have a long, long history of epic failure. However, that doesn’t mean they’re impossible to make. I even wrote an entire piece about how Hollywood anime adaptations could succeed, because I’m a really generous guy. With that said, let’s take a look at the newest addition to the lineup with yet another adaptation of Masamune Shirow’s cyberpunk icon: Ghost in the Shell.
Cybernetic enhancements have advanced by leaps and bounds in the future and are now a regular part of daily life. In this world, a young woman, later known as the Major (Scarlett Johansson), is saved from drowning, and while her body could not be saved, her mind could. Her consciousness is implanted in a fully cybernetic body, or “shell,” and she is assigned to work in a counter-cyberterrorism division known as Section 9.
However, as she pursues a new target known as Kuze, forgotten memories from her past begin to pop up again, and the Major soon finds herself embroiled in a possible conspiracy that may subvert the entirety of who the Major believes she is.
So is Ghost in the Shell a good movie?
Perhaps it was my very low expectations, but this turned out to be a fairly competent film. It keeps a solid sense of thrill and tension throughout its run, which made for an overall enjoyable experience.
A great deal of credit goes to the directing and visual presentation, which are simply incredible. True, I would like to eventually see some cyberpunk that thinks there’s an option besides the Bladerunner aesthetic, but in what it attempts to do visually, it does so wonderfully.
The world crafted for this film feels alive, like something that could actually exist in the future, and the balance between vibrant and muted colours allows for firm control over the film’s tone. The sound work also deserves a huge hand, with tons of nods to the original Kenji Kawai score from 1995 that give the film a chilling sensibility.
Scarlett Johnasson’s acting really impairs Ghost in the Shell 2017.
However, that’s not to say that this is a great film. There are a lot of flaws that keep me from getting fully invested, most notably lead actress Scarlett Johansson. Surprisingly though, it wasn’t the white-washing thing that grinded my gears; they actually explain that away pretty well and it didn’t bother me at all in the film.
What does bother me is Johansson’s acting. Aside from a few standout scenes near the end, her performance is emotionless, uninviting, and…well, robotic. And the Major isn’t even a robot! She started off life as a human and still has a human mind, so to portray her in such a lifeless and unenthusiastic way really takes away from the experience.
This might be a directing issue or it might be an actress issue, but I can’t be sure. What I am sure of though is that this is just not a good performance.
Thankfully, the characterisation and moderately solid acting of the supporting cast carries the rest of the film through, be it Batou’s toughness or Chief Aramaki’s calm sense of control (also big props to Beat Takeshi for another cool performance). Kuze in particular is a huge standout, and the reveal of his character’s true nature had me glued to every distorted word he spoke.
How does the Ghost in the Shell movie compare to the anime series?
If you’re already a fan of previous GitS stories, however, you will find this movie disappointingly hollow. It constantly comes close to exploring interesting ideas revolving around the nature of human consciousness, but only uses the basic points of these ideas to further its action-thriller plot.
Worse still, said plot only seems to grow more and more generic as the film goes on, with the big reveal of the Major’s past being disappointingly predictable and out of line with the spirit of GitS. The film isn’t a dumb action thriller by any means, but this is Ghost in the Shell, a franchise that has made a name for itself by how intelligent it is. To get to “almost as intriguing” is more than I expected, but it’s still disappointing that we didn’t get into the intricate philosophical discussions GitS is known for.
Overall, this is an alright film. Despite some poor performances and a lot of scenes that just don’t fulfil my desire for more GitS, this new take on Ghost in the Shell is one that I could see myself recommending to those who aren’t familiar with the franchise already – especially if you want a stepping stone into the thematic denseness of its predecessors.
My Rating: 6.5/10