Ghost in the Shell

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Ghost in the Shell

As reported by Dollyforme

I actually missed this in the theatre – thought it was a stupid idea. However, I did rent it on redbox. I have to say, clad in a skin-tight, flesh-coloured bodysuit, Scarlett Johansson cuts a striking figure as she dives off skyscrapers and scraps with bad guys in sleek sci-fi thriller Ghost in the Shell, a live-action remake of the 1995 Japanese anime based on a cult Manga series.

She’s Major, a human-cyborg hybrid revived by robotics corporation Hanka after a terrible accident, her human brain (her ‘ghost’) kitted out with an enhanced synthetic body (her ‘shell’). Now she’s a warrior for the government’s Section 9 anti-terror unit, but when she goes into action against the mysterious hacker who is killing Hanka’s scientists, she comes to question her own memories and identity

Director Rupert Sanders (Snow White and the Huntsman) borrows considerably from the 1995 original, copying some scenes shot for shot; and he owes a big debt to Blade Runner for the look of his film’s dystopian metropolis setting, with the giant floating holograms that drift between the city’s towers clearly inspired by the flying screens in Ridley Scott’s sci-fi classic.

Sanders’ movie is definitely not in Blade Runner’s league, its quasi-philosophical musings on what it means to be human more show than substance. But the action is a blast and Johansson is fabulous, once more channelling the otherworldly vibe she displayed so distinctively in such films as Lucy, Under the Skin and Her. And she gets great support from Borgen’s Pilou Asbæk (burly, loyal colleague Batou), Juliette Binoche (maternal scientist Dr Ouelet), and Japanese icon “Beat” Takeshi Kitano (Section 9’s foxy old-school boss).

I have seen very few Japanese animated movies in my time on this small blue planet, in fact I can count on one hand how little I've seen. 'Akira' and 'Monster City' aka 'Demon City Shinjuku' are two of the only films I've seen. I have seen the original 1995 'Ghost in the Shell' movie (based on an original manga by Masamune Shirow) once, but it was so long ago I cannot remember anything about it other than some iconic imagery. So I entered into this new 2017 US adaptation pretty much as a fresh faced newbie. Could this new vision wow me? The plot: In the future humans are enhanced by augmentation with cybernetic body parts. Hanka Robotics headed by Cutter develops this augmentative technology. A female survivor of an apparent terrorist attack (Mira Killian) has her brain placed within a robotic body and is used as a special counter-terrorism operative under Section 9; where She eventually gains the rank of Major. Section 9's main target is cyber-terrorist Kuze who wants to take down Hanka. Kuze has personal reasons for his actions, Cutter has secrets the Major is unaware of. Lets talk visuals, with today's standards in special effects there is no way this could go wrong, right? Correct! the visuals in the movie are fabulous. The Japanese semi-dystopian cyberpunk world set in a not too distant future, is pretty much 'Blade Runner' tenfold, but brighter. I love the attention to detail we see in and around the faceless city as we follow the protagonists. The citizens and their individual styles, their attire, the technology they are using in their everyday lives etc...Every street or alley is bustling with life from neon advertisements to small food vendors or quirky robotics buzzing around. I liked how things just happened in the background, just routine stuff...but clearly had a lot of thought put into it. Although I think they went a tad over the top with the holograms, did they really need holographic arrows in the road? Whilst its not dark and gritty overall, once you get away from the large colourful holographic images within the gleaming skyscrapers, we find a more typical Japanese/Asian city with huge Lego-esque blocks of concrete living quarters. These areas are grey, cold and somewhat depressing to look at, but definitely not as bleak as the animated movie from what I can remember.

The shift in tone from the city to the suburban areas was well handled and showcased an elaborately designed Asian metropolis. I only wish they had toned down the westernisation of the city. But that's not all, I found myself loving much more with the visuals. The car that is used by the Major (Scarlett Johansson) and Batou (Pilou Asæk) is friggin' awesome! It looked like a classic Lotus Esprit with futuristic mods including some natty alloys and an incredible neon turquoise interior.

I loved the weaponry we see being used, it all looked über cool. I loved the costume designs throughout, the various robots we see such as the eerie geishas, and of course the various shots that homage the source material. Unfortunately I have to address the controversy that surrounded the movie with its casting. Fuck it! The casting was brilliant all round which I admit I found surprising. I too am slightly fed up with seeing the same actors in big movies, but gosh darn it if Johnasson didn't look perfect as the Major.

I did find myself enjoying what I saw. Sure there were still a few quibbles that I questioned, even though some of it did feature in the original 95 movie . But at the start of the movie we see the Major leaping off the top of a skyscraper to infiltrate a section of the building in order to stop a terrorist attack. Next scene she's leaping in through the window. How did that happen exactly?? How do you go from free falling off a skyscraper to leaping through the side of the building?

This slick remake was a big surprise to me. Unnecessary? Sure. Good? You bet. The visuals, soundtrack, art design, and Johansson are all in fine form. Director Rupert Sanders nailed the technicals. Undeniably however, the 1996 Anime classic of the same name is a whole lot smarter. It's impressionistic, interpretive structure is replaced by a more blunt procedural.

Once again Hollywood has turned the cerebral physical, but the result isn't negative either. It's just fairly inessential. In it's own right, "Ghost in the Shell" is well made, even beautiful at times with some memorable set pieces and action choreography. As a live-action companion piece to the O.G. model, it's worthy! I'd watch it again. In the shadow of it's source though, it's a tough sell.

Certificate: PG-13. Runtime 107 mins. Director Rupert Sanders

Comments

I agree with this review. yes I have the original "Ghost In The Shell" anime movie on videocassette, and watched it before I went to see this year's live-action version. There's similarities, and of course some big differences; the diverging course of the live-action film is believeable and credible too, and leads to a different ending. The sub-plot of how Batou receives his cybernetic optic implants was a nice touch, helping define his character. Now that I have a blu-ray player at home, maybe I should try and rent 'Ghost In The Shell' on blu-ray and watch it again!