Ghost in the Shell is a visually stunning Hollywood-ized take on its source material. It may not come close to the landmark manga and 1995 original, but it still offers an engaging sci-fi thriller that consistently dazzles the senses.
Nearly every single scene is a visual treat, packed with imaginative details of a believable future. The CGI is seamlessly integrated with practical effects in an impressive manner that avoids the uncanny valley. The city’s holographic advertising landscape draws heavily from Blade Runner but still manages to integrate enough unique ideas to keep it fresh.
The film flips deftly from flashy yet visceral action, to a serviceable plot and light meditation on what it means to be human.
The action is stylized and beautiful yet retains a sense of logic and danger. This is one of the few recent action movies where I felt the characters acted rationally. The enemies here shoot to kill and retreat strategically. This maintains tension and the potential for serious consequences.
Scarlett Johansson offers a mixed bag as the lead character: a poweful synthetic body with a human brain. I found her strong enough for the dramatic portions, but hardly believable as an ass-kicker. She also chose to walk with a goofy robotic gait that had me cringing.
I don’t buy into the complaints of white-washing, as the owners of the original obviously consented to a remake made by American production companies. Although the original is powerful and inspirational, it’s still just a fictional story. Conversely, if Japanese filmmakers produced an all-Japanese telling of say, Abraham Lincoln’s story, that would be just fine by me.
Having said that, I would have been interested in seeing an Asian actor in the role, preferably one that can handle the physical moments just as well as the dramatic.
Clint Mansell’s cyberpunk score is definitely worth mentioning. It elevated the information-overload of the cities, added depth to the meditative moments, and mostly stayed out of the way for the action sequences.
I found the plot’s twists and turns to be simple and strong. I especially appreciated the deeper motivations of the initial antagonist. 2017’s GitS focuses much closer on the title character than the original’s more worldly view. It doesn’t reach the heights of the landmark source material, but still succeeds as a tight, sci-fi thriller with just enough brains.
I didn’t leave the theatre with the lingering questions great art asks of us, but I had a genuinely great time while it lasted.
If you have any interest in sci-fi, cyberpunk, or stylized action with room for philosophical questions, you could have a great time with Ghost in the Shell. Hardcore fans of the original may find this version quite shallow, but the stunning visuals alone are worth the price of admission.
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