Dystoporama Review: Ghost in the Shell (2017 Live Action)   April 5th, 2017

“They did not save your life. They stole it.”

The live-action film adaptation of the anime movie “Ghost in the Shell” is a visual masterpiece with images that capture and echo the style and visions of the original. I have only seen pieces of the animated movie and television series, but there were many shots and scenes that echoed with the heartbeats of that world and struck vivid chords with my memories of the source material.

The movie deserves credit for capturing the style and feel of the original, but it isn’t perfect. There are complaints of white-washing the cast, and while not a total detractor, it does take away something from the film. Scarlett Johansson portrays Major Killian perfectly, and it’s it is possible to argue that given the stylistic portrayal of anime characters, they could map to Eastern or Western actors. While it was good to see a multi-ethnic supporting cast, it would’ve been nice to see more Asian actors playing major roles.

Major’s boss, the head of Section 9, is the only character who speaks Japanese, and other than some bits of decoration in set pieces, the city felt more European or American than an Asian setting. It would’ve been nice to have a setting which felt more unique to the source material, and for all the diversity of the Section 9 team, all of the scientists and administrators at Hanka Robotics were uniformly white.

Those critiques aside, while the futuristic city does not have any defined place, the design and mood of it was entertaining. Neon signs light the night and the buildings and cityscape are plastered with gigantic animated holographic advertising, electronic images constantly vying for attention. That conjured up the mood of the source material and it was a delight to watch. The design and aesthetics of the robots and human-upgrades technology felt spot on as well.

Unfortunately the film was more style than substance. The plot wasn’t horrible and the writing was decent, but it didn’t have a lot of depth to it. A quick reference of the plot from Wikipedia and watching the video for the trailer, reveals that the current movie borrows heavily from the original anime, though not exactly all of the plot points.

With the merging of biology and technology, the lines are being blurred. Themes of memories and personality and what makes a person human and the contents of their soul or “ghost” are central to both films. I appreciated that, as those are thoughts that always pique my interest in these types of films. The new movie doesn’t deal with them to the depth I would’ve liked, but it still tells an interesting story.

The story takes place in a future where the increasing interfacing between man and machine has made all sorts of human upgrades possible. Artificial limbs and organs can be made to replace damaged ones, and you can even go for enhanced versions if you’re interested. When Batou’s eyes are damaged in a terrorist encounter, he opts for full-tactile replacements, with cold lenses sticking out of his eye sockets, aesthetics shunned for x-ray and infrared vision. Another member of the team jokes about how “every night is last call” thanks to his artificial liver, in a comedic moment. Cerebral interfaces also allow individuals to have enhanced cognitive abilities and direct connections to the computer network.

The plot opens with Mira Killian, a young woman who is shown having undergone a traumatic accident. They are unable to save her body, but instead perform a recently-developed procedure to transplant her brain into a robot body. She survives the procedure with only hazy memories of the accident and her old life, but with her cognitive abilities intact. Her new body may not have human feelings, but it excels in other dimensions and she is fortunate to be alive.

Upon recovery she is recruited into the anti-terrorist police unit Section 9, where her enhanced reflexes and senses and near-indestructible body are put to good use. Her strengths and assets are admired and she is treated as any other member of the team, even though she feels isolated from humanity. Her partner Batou comments that her lack of memories are a blessing, that it makes her more pure, but she still is troubled from echoes from her past.

There is not much time to dwell on her personal issues though, as Section 9 is on the trail of a deadly terrorist who has been able to hack into computer networks and compromise both robots and humans with cybernetic implants, to turn them into killer puppets. As they get closer to the trail of this mysterious killer, they may not like what they find.

The story for “Ghost in the Shell” is entertaining and held my attention, but there aren’t any big surprises. I enjoyed seeing the tropes come up and the pieces fall into place, even though I knew pretty much where the story would take me. That doesn’t mean it’s a bad film. The ideas could’ve dug deeper, but there was enough of a foundation there. The characters are more archetypes, but they were fun and I appreciated the bits of interactions between Major and Batou. The story is decent and it’s worth the trip; even if it’s more of a popcorn film, it’s an enjoyable ride.

This entry was posted on Wednesday, April 5th, 2017 at 5:06 am and is filed under Dystoporama, Movies and TV. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.Both comments and pings are currently closed.

No Responses