UK Release Date: 31st March 2017
Runtime: 107 minutes
Director: Rupert Sanders
Writer: Jamie Moss, William Wheeler, Ehren Kruger
Starring: Scarlett Johansson, Pilou Asbæk, Takeshi Kitano, Michael Pitt, Juliette Binoche, Chin Han
Synopsis: A dying woman has her consciousness transferred into a physically formidable cyborg form and is used as a weapon to tackle a team of cyber-terrorists targeting the firm that created her.
In years to come, following a long conversation that starts with “Do you remember Ghost in the Shell?” and ends 20 minutes later with somebody exclaiming: “Oh, that Scarlett Johansson movie”, the best we might be able to say about this adaptation of the 1995 cult anime is that it generated something of a discussion.
There’s an incredibly thin argument to be made that, by casting Scarlett Johansson, this adaptation guaranteed itself the budget necessary to deliver the CGI-enhanced city backdrop which is the films only redeeming feature. However, outside of this, the fact that Ghost in the Shell may be the movie to provoke a comprehensive rethink of Hollywood whitewashing might just be the only thing it achieves.
Ghost in the Shell is about Major – a human brain with a cyborg body played by Scarlett Johansson and developed by a shadowy organisation to carry out jobs for the government catching various unspecified people and the big-bad Kuze (Michael Pitt). However, elements of her pre-cyborg past are encroaching on Major’s work and she starts to question whether her world is all that it seems.
While the influence of movies like Blade Runner is keenly felt in the tone and design of Ghost in the Shell and The Matrix is clearly an inspiration for its action, what the movie fails to do is get past its influences and be distinctive-enough to engage you in its story.
In trying to balance itself between being a movie about identity and self-discovery in a sci-fi context and a slick action flick, the movie ends up warring with two conflicting ideas that never coalesce. Bland scenes of dialogue break up bland action sequences in front of a backdrop that is impeccably well-designed, but feels lifeless when playing second-fiddle to forgettable characters.
The irony about the failings of Ghost in the Shell is that its dull final product disguises some interesting ideas that aren’t allowed to flourish. Like Major, some life is in there, but it’s buried beneath a flat, carefully designed mechanical surface.
Pop or Poop?
There’s an argument to be made that a live-action remake of Ghost in the Shell was necessary and welcome, but this tepid, lifeless take on the material does little to substantiate that viewpoint. The film fails to construct any worthwhile characters and its glossy CGI dystopia feels cribbed from the rest of the cyberpunk canon.
Do you agree with my review? Let me know in the comments section.