Ghost in the Shell Review
Director: Rupert Sanders
Starring: Scarlett Johannsen, Takeshi Kitano, Michael Pitt, Juliette Binoche, Chin Han, and Pilou Asbæk
Saved from death by having her brain transplanted into an experimental body, Mira Killian is now the Major; a first of her kind operative assigned to Section 9, a government agency that investigates and polices cybercrimes. When important figures from Hanka robotics, the company responsible for the technology she now inhabits, are being murdered, Major and the members of Section 9 including Batou (Pilou Asbæk), Togusa (Chin Han), and Chief Aramaki (Takeshi Kitano). When glitches in her system make her question her humanity, she discovers a mysterious connection between the killings and her her own shrouded past.
Adapted from the manga from Masamune Shirow as well as being heavily influenced from the acclaimed Mamoru Oshii anime film and Kenji Kamiyama’s anime television series, this long awaited live action adaptation arrives amid a flurry of controversy concerning, among other things, the casting of Hollywood A-lister Scarlett Johannsen as Major Motoko Kusanagi. While the 1995 animated film is one of the most popular and influential Japanese films period, (its visual aesthetic and style is still shockingly compelling today) it is the TV series by Kamiyama that I prefer as my favorite Ghost in the Shell franchise entry. The film does heavily lean on the 1995 picture for its inspiration, as evidenced by the numerous spot on recreations of iconic scenes like the HK alley chase and shallow water fight as well as the multiple uses of her cloaking technology and especially the costuming.
Johannsen jis fine as the Major; she has very robotic intonations and her action scenes are well done by the also Avenger and her stunt double. Asbæk is perhaps the best part of the film with a spot on take of Batou that is both funny and grounded. A generally solid supporting cast round out the film’s actors with personal favorite Beat Takeshi stealing the film with both his haircut and an action sequence that would be right at home in his own directed crime films.
As far as visually, the film is a terrific looking picture. Really solid and immersive visual effects coupled with a fully realized and populated city really capture the look and feel of the previous film.
Mired in controversy from the very first announcement of the Major’s casting, Ghost in the Shell also had the added burden of being a live action adaptation of a beloved franchise from a medium that has historically had piddling adaptations. While the film ultimately meanders in the first half, there are some interesting set pieces and the appropriate urgency and energy in the back end. Hardly a great film, but also nowhere near the atrocity some vocal pundits may indicate, Ghost in the Shell is a perfectly serviceable science fiction actioner that would be forgettable were it not for it’s cult source material.