Ghost In The Shell is at times thought-provoking, visually stunning, and terrifying. For all of its promise and potential, the true problem is that the movie misses the boat on making this live action remake truly remarkable.
MAJOR BRAINS, NO HEART
Ghost In The Shell is based off of 1995’s anime film of the same name. The premise takes us to a futuristic mid-21st century Japan. In this era, technology has advanced so far that individuals are able to have their consciousness transferred to a cyborg with a synthetic, human-like outer casing. Hence, we have a “ghost” in a “shell.”
Our story follows protagonist “Major,” played by the wonderful Scarlett Johansson. Major is the first of the aforementioned cyborgs, with a tragic yet questionable past. In this steam punk setting, brain enhancements are found all over. The problem is, as with most technology, that they can be hacked or used for evil. Ghost In The Shell is a clear influence on largely recognizable franchises from Hollywood’s The Matrix to gaming’s Deus Ex series. Ghost In The Shell would make for a solid episodic video game. Telltale Games, I’m looking at you.
The film draws a lot from the 1995 anime version, staying true to the consistently mundane pacing throughout. The story never gets too high, nor does it get too low. It does a good job of adapting its anime roots to the silver screen. While there are things to enjoy about Ghost, the movie isn’t for mainstream audiences.
Visually, the film can be hit or miss. An early shot shows us the neon-lit city, with massive, holographic advertisements running rampant, emphasizing the front-and-center corporate landscape. The color scheme blends the brightness and depth of its vast array in a magnificent way. I immediately thought of Marvel’s Doctor Strange adaptation, which tried to do a similar thing but couldn’t quite succeed due to its lack of contrast and overall busyness. In other words, I never felt like I was looking at a blur of clashing colors, but rather a well constructed bit of artistry.
That’s not to say that Ghost doesn’t fail at times in the visual sense. The very thing I praised in the paragraph above ran into slight issues at times, where it felt like the post production team left some quality on the table. When it came to action sequences, I was left wanting more – or really, for John Wick to appear. The gun play in these sequences was spotty and sadly, the film never gets your heart racing or emotionally invested. You can check your adrenaline at the door. However, there were certain aspects that Ghost really nailed. Major’s transformation into an invisible shell is one of them. Her ability to cloak herself couldn’t have been easy to pull off, and the stylized, slow motion way in which this was done was aesthetically pleasing.
I’ve talked a good deal about visuals, but what about the film’s sound? The soundtrack matches the movie’s visual vibe to a tee, enhancing the futuristic feel to the nines. If you’ve ever played gaming’s masterful Mass Effect trilogy, you’ll know the exact style I’m talking about. Without this music, the film’s pulse would have dropped to an even lower beat. One particularly awesome nod was the movie’s opening sequence, which features a choir of singers that deliver a haunting, melodic sound that very much resembles the one used in the intro of the ’95 film.
Though internet goers and people in general are always looking for a fight, I simply must disagree over the casting “controversy” that Scarlett Johansson shouldn’t have played Major because she is not of Japanese descent. In fact, Johansson looks, moves, and sounds identical to her anime counterpart from the ’95 film. This was a tough role to play for numerous reasons, and there could not have been a better choice than the enigmatic Johansson. One of my favorite parts of the film is the way Major walks and generally moves. It’s robotic, yet human all at once. I mentioned before that the movie is mundane and in the case of Johansson’s performance as Major, that is exactly what the character’s persona calls for.
Her voice is monotone, rarely showing the emotion naturally felt by a human being. Try to picture your brain being placed into a stiff, plastic-like cyborg. Is there a bit of claustrophobia? Because that’s exactly what I would imagine, and ScarJo captures that essence beautifully. If nothing else, her performance shows her overall ability and diversity when it comes to roles she can take on.
Ghost In The Shell delivers many themes that are relevant to the ever changing scope of today’s society and challenges the boundaries of human ethics. Is it right to have a human’s “ghost” transferred to a cyborg? Will corporations ever truly be held in check for their greed and agendas? Where is the line?
Technology is always advancing, but how far away are we from truly experiencing something like we see in Ghost In The Shell? While I can honestly say that this never felt like the action movie I thought we might receive, it often felt like a horror movie. A human brain trapped inside a shell casing? Downright terrifying.
As the story goes on and we learn more about Major and her past, the terrible, disturbing things that happened and continue to happen in front of our eyes bring forth even more questions than the ones I listed above. The social commentary evident in Ghost is profound and regardless of the movie’s execution of the source material, seems primed to stand the test of time.
There is nothing truly remarkable about Ghost In The Shell’s big screen adaptation. From merely adequate pacing, design, and acting (with the exception being Johansson), I found my moderately low expectations sadly unmet.
+ Scarlett Johansson as Major
+ Though inconsistent, certain visual aspects were beautiful
+ Soundtrack screams futuristic steam punk society
– Improper balance of dialogue and action led to too many lulls and a slow pace
– No notable performances, Johansson notwithstanding
– Poor third act
Josiah LeRoy is The Geekiverse’s Editor In Chief. He likes long walks on the beach, playing with puppies, and saving the galaxy. While March 2017 was a fantastic month for cinema, April will be the true “star” thanks to some trailer about the last of the Jedi.
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