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MOVIE REVIEW: FTN Reviews Ghost in the Shell

March 29th, 2017 by Andrew McCarroll Comments

Scarlett Johansson, “Beat” Takeshi Kitano, Michael Pitt, Pilou Asbaek, Chin Han and Juliette Binoche
Directed by: Rupert Sanders
Release Date: March 30, 2017
Running time: 106 minutes

In the near future, Major (Scarlett Johansson) is the first of her kind: A human saved from a terrible crash, who is cyber-enhanced to be a perfect soldier devoted to stopping the world’s most dangerous criminals. When terrorism reaches a new level that includes the ability to hack into people’s minds and control them, Major is uniquely qualified to stop it. As she prepares to face a new enemy, Major discovers that she has been lied to: her life was not saved, it was stolen. She will stop at nothing to recover her past, find out who did this to her and stop them before they do it to others. Based on the internationally acclaimed Japanese Manga, “The Ghost in the Shell.”

“A teacher’s purpose is not to create students in his own image, but to develop students who can create their own image.”

With the original Anime movie having such a huge influence on the last two decades of Hollywood Science-Fiction, it is perhaps a little unfair to say the updated version suffers from feeling too familiar and by the numbers.

First, the positives: Ghost in the Shell is possibly the most visually stunning movie since Blade Runner and captures the spirit of the original Manga.

It is a fully realised world that looks inhabitable in ways that recent blockbusters simply don’t; it is an excellent mix of the realistic blended with the fantastical as Johansson is used to her strengths, her cold and, at times, dispassionate features beautifully tell the story of Major, someone who is both in total control of her lethal body while not fully comfortable in her own (enhanced) skin.

As well as this, more than ample support is given by Juliette Binoche’s mother figure/creator and her partner Batou (Pilou Asbaek) who may be the best thing in the film, his Ron Perlman-like hulking physique and gravelly voice has now made him my new Choice for Cable in the Deadpool sequel (I want 10%).

The action scenes are entertaining without offering anything mind blowing to rival its imitator’s “bullet time” while the story of the human mind rejecting its physical enhancements has been done in everything from Frankenstein to Robocop, and sadly it doesn’t play with the morality of its titular character being transformed into a weapon against her will here, indeed even when she begins to unearth her origins, Major still kills without ambivalence.

However, the biggest negative is that the movie never offers any surprises or the complexity offered by its source original material and, as a result, the story falls flat, haunted by the ghosts of a thousand imitators who picked its bones to make their own creation.

There is a lot to like about Rupert Sanders’ adaptation though; the “whitewashing” issue is shrewdly addressed, and the movie always looks beautiful and is well worth seeing in IMAX as it has more than enough great moments to deserve the bigger ticket price and a scene where the Major shares a tender moment of curiosity with a prostitute she finds is particularly beautiful.

However, the story is oversimplified by comparison to the original and, while by no means a bad film, it feels like a missed opportunity to kick start a new, intelligent science fiction franchise.

3 out of 5 Nerds

Andrew McCarroll never quite built on the dizzying career heights that he hit at 6 years old, when as a member of the “Ghostbusters” he would charge his neighbours to remove any unwanted spectres. Now retired from slaying spooks, he spends his time obsessing over superheroes (especially Batman) and devouring shows like Dexter, Game of Thrones and Archer in a manner that would make Galactus proud. You can follow his rants on twitter @andymc1983