Ghost in the Shell (2017), Rated PG-13
Directed By: Rupert Sanders
Starring: Scarlett Johansson, Johns Pilou, Takeshi Kitano, Juliette Binoche
Reviewed by David L. Felts
Have you seen this movie?
It can be hard to make a remake, especially one of such an iconic and revered movie as Ghost in the Shell, the 1995 anime still lauded today, that spawned the sequel Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence, and the series Stand Alone Complex and Arise. The Wachowskis credit Ghost in the Shell as one of the influences behind their Matrix series and among cyber-enthusiasts, it claims cult status. With a pedigree this long and valued, any addition to the mythology was going to be under a microscope. Comparisons to the 1995 original are inevitable, but, in the end, unfair I think.
First, let me address the whole “whitewashing” thing: who cares?
Now that that’s out of the way, onto the review.
If you’re going to this new one expecting to see the 1995 original faithfully brought to life in a blow-by-blow live action version, you’re going to be disappointed. And, evidentially, this was what many people expected (hoped for?) because there seems to be a lot of disappointed fans and critics out there. Reading their reviews, it seems to me that their main focus is to compare this new version to the old one, rather than judging this one on its own merits.
I’ve seen the original, although it’s been long enough ago that the details have faded. I liked it, and this new release has made me want to go back and watch it again. If you haven’t seen the original, I suggest avoiding it until you see this one as to avoid the inevitable comparison your brain will make as the film progresses.
I enjoyed Ghost in the Shell. The visuals are a treat, a cleaned up version of the Bladerunner world, or perhaps Gibson’s Sprawl megalopolos. The vision of humanity’s continued integration with technology is fascinating, and who knows? In the end, it might end up being more prescient than fantasy.
Set some unknown years in the future, science has continued to advance to where the human body can be altered to almost any extent by cybernetic parts–organs, limbs and, now (maybe) an entire body. Most significant of these enhancements is a casing for the human brain that allows access to computer networks, including the Internet.
Major Mira Killian, AKA Motoko Kusanagi (Scarlett Johansson) is the latest cybernetic advancement–and also a proof of concept for Hanka Robotics: she is an experiment to demonstrate the complete integration of a human brain into an entirely artificial body–a cyborg. She’s also an agent for Section 9, a special security organization that works directly for the Prime Minister. Working alongside agent Batou (Johns Pilou) under Chief Daisuke Aramaki (Takeshi Kitano), they fight terrorism, mainly cyber-terrorism.
Major has begun experiencing hallucinations, visions that her Hanka Robotics handler Dr. Ouelet (Juliette Binoche) dismisses as glitches. Major is also starting to become frustrated by how little of her past she remembers and is developing the hunch that Hanka isn’t being totally up front with her. During a thwarted attack, Major learns of the existence of a cyberhacker going by the name of Kuze (Michael Pitt). Kuze, it seems, might have some of the answers to Major’s past, answers Hanka and Hanka’s CEO Cutter (Peter Ferdinando) prefer she not learn.
There are quite a few places ripping this movie to shreds. Check a few of these headlines:
- ‘Ghost in the Shell’ Movie Review: A Shoddy, Soulless Remake – Vulture
- Review: In ‘Ghost in the Shell,’ a Cyborg With Soul – The New York Times
- ‘Ghost in the Shell’ Movie Review: All ScarJo, No Soul – Rolling Stone
Thing is, as I mentioned above, I don’t think most of the reviews out there panning it are panning the movie, they are panning it as it compares to the original.
Right now on RT it’s sitting with a 43% critic rating and a 63% audience score. A 20 percent discrepancy is pretty decent. And I’m not sure this is accurate for the average viewer–someone who doesn’t revere the original. It’s not too difficult to find fan-boys (and girls) who practically have the original memorized ranting about how it doesn’t compare; it’s too slick, it’s too Hollywood, they made it into too much of an action flick, it’s watered-down…. blah, blah, blah.
Maybe some of that is true, but I’m writing a movie review, not a comparison. And from that perspective, I can tell you I enjoyed it. Great visuals, a beautifully realized world, cool speculation on the future of machine-human interface, interesting questions about the nature of identity….
Sure, it has a few bumps, but I think this one is worth seeing on the big screen.