In 1995 a thought provoking, complex anime classic was released to the world. That anime is Ghost in the Shell. Fast forward 22 years later we finally get a live action adaptation. The movie itself isn’t as thought provoking as its anime counterpart. But it is still complex enough to delight fans of the original.
Ghost in the Shell takes place in the near future, Major is the first of her kind: a human who is cyber-enhanced to be a perfect soldier devoted to stopping the world’s most dangerous felons. When terrorism reaches a new stage that includes the ability to hack into people’s minds and control them, Major is uniquely qualified to stop it. As she sets up to face a new enemy, Major discovers that she has been lied to.
I am a huge fan of the anime and manga. Thank goodness they didn’t mess this up. The narrative is an amalgam of the first two films from story elements to character designs. Fans have a pile of things to look for. Ghost in the Shell’s story is complex enough to engage non-fans and fans alike. I do know some of you that have watched the anime might be disappointed that the film doesn’t delve deeper into the philosophical elements of the story. Even the Majors origin has changed a bit. In the long run the changes made worked for me. She is still attempting to figure out who she is and why she was created. The narrative is more political, dealing with social status. Granted, I would have liked it to be more thought provoking. Overall, it worked. To my surprise, I welcomed the changes.
There has been a great deal of controversy about Scarlett Johansson as the lead role of Major. Since it’s originally a Japanese part. I was a bit let down, it’s a great opportunity for an Asian actress to have a leading role in a Hollywood film. To my surprise Masamune Shirow the creator of Ghost in the Shell had no problems with Scarlet as The Major. After watching the film it makes sense in the narrative. I’m not being specific on purpose, to hold this review spoiler free. But Scarlett does a wonderful job as Major. Everything from her mannerisms, hair and fighting style she was the character. There was never any point where I thought she wasn’t right for the part. The chemistry between Scarlett and Pilou Asbæk who plays Batou is spot on. As well, it’s cool to see Beat Takeshi, get to steal some scenes. If you haven’t watched any of his films, do yourself a favor and see one. The rest of the cast does a wonderful job.
Visually, this one gorgeous looking movie. The filmmakers were able to obtain the exact look of the anime perfectly. Everything from the city’s holographic skyline to crazy looking geisha robots. I like how they also showed how augmentations change between social status. The rich have their augments hidden, while the poor seem more robotic. It looks believable and cool.
It’s a Ghost in the Shell film, how’s the action? I know that’s what you’re thinking. It rocks. Most of all the action scenes are carried from the anime. It’s awe-inspiring to see them on the big screen. You get kick ass gun-fu and cyborg action. They do a wonderful job mixing practical effects, CGI and great action choreography. Simply imagine the future setting of Bladerunner and the action scenes of The Matrix and you get Ghost in the Shell.
3 1/2 out of 4 Hats