Ghost in the Shell (2017)
Directed by Rupert Sanders
Starring Scarlett Johansson, Pilou Asbaek, Juliette Binoche
We welcome back Jordan for this review!
“Everyone around me, they feel connected to something. Connected to something, I’m not.”
While I’m commonly far from measured when reacting to remakes of treasured classics, I understand that there is a particular approach needed when assessing Rupert Sanders’ Remake of Mamoru Oshii’s Ghost in the Shell.
From Oshii’s masterwork, to the encapsulation Miyazaki’s flourishing imagination and Satoshi Kon’s nightmares (and dreams), Japanese animation stands unequivocally, critically successful because it presents worlds and stories not able to be realised in any other style. Rapid increased in film technology however now presents further ability to bring the fantastical and the futuristic into live-action, and this is where, using a rationale perhaps shunned by most fans, there is an element of logic in presenting an obviously shallow, visually spectacular Ghost in the Shell for 2017.
Scarlett Johansson stars as The Major in what should be viewed as a peripheral to the original; a stylistic accompanying piece light on philosophy and a thesis on what it means to be human in a push for a robotic environment, but satisfying in its intent to offer remarkable action scenes in a storied franchise. From the very first scene, it’s clear the direction the screenplay has taken, with a liquid sequence of a “shell” being positioned and it’s “ghost” inserted, followed by exposition-only dialogue turning the symbolic into the derivative. Suffice to say, this is not an issue that the original dealt with.
The greater story focusses on the cyber-enhanced soldier’s mission to bring down a terrorist hacker, who utilises an ability to control the minds of those whose bodies have been self-improved and is targeting particular executives at Hanka Robotics, a company closely linked to the Government and purveyors in bodily enhancement. After deep-diving into the memories of a corrupted geisha, The Major becomes infected with a computer virus, and the mysterious glitches she sometimes suffers become more and more vivid.
With the majority of the subtext stepped around, what remains really is a familiar tale of a loyal soldier questioning her allegiances to a company she once fully trusted, but that is now cracking under the immense weight of its own corruption. This is a form employed by many series released in recent years, especially those that are female-driven, and its undoubtable that Ghost in the Shell is only going to appeal to those willing to embrace a movie dominated by two-dimensional happenings in a far-more interesting, multi-dimensional landscape it never fully explores. There is always an urge watching this to understand more about the political machinations; the poverty and social upheaval caused by the ushering in of this new, quite terrifying reality. This is not the movie for this, though.
When viewed as an extension of one of the finest animes of all time, and not a replacement, Ghost in the Shell provides an exciting diversion from self-justifying cinema that is well cast, well scored and, well, actually pretty good.