Review of Ghost in the Shell (2017)

ghostintheshell2017

There wasn’t a “ghost” of a chance that this movie would do well at the box office. Live action anime adaptations have a reputation of being crap… and even if they didn’t, living up to the legacy of the 1995 original was always going to be tough. In case those hurdles weren’t insurmountable enough, Paramount also had to contend with a SJW backlash over the casting of the film’s heroine. How dare they change the Major’s nationality from Japanese to Caucasian? Never mind that the Japanese were chuffed that A-List actress Scarlett Johansson was fronting the film, or that anime characters don’t look Asian in the first place. Paramount should have picked a Hispanic lady for the role. SJWs don’t seem to bash Marvel when they change a character’s race to that of a minority.

OVERVIEW

Ghost in the Shell is set in the near future, a time were mankind has began to augment bodies with cybernetic implants. That tech can’t come soon enough for me. Imagine how much faster I could type out these reviews if I could replace my stubby fingers with mechanical hands? Anyways, the story follows counter-terrorist agent Major Mira Killian who possesses an entirely synthetic body. When the movie begins we see Mira use her artificial agility (and a stealth suit that leaves little to the imagination) to foil an armed assault. For the most part the operation was a success, but one hostage did end up perishing in the skirmish. Said victim wasn’t murdered by one of the attackers though. They died at the hands of a robotic servant that happened to be in the vicinity.

One quick investigation later and it is revealed that a hacker named Kuze was controlling the homicidal bot remotely. Mira and the Section Nine anti-terror unit are tasked with apprehending Kuze, before he is able to strike again. What follows is a decent cyberpunk mystery packed with twists and some impressive visual effects. It was cool seeing some of the 1995 animated scenes recreated in live action, such as Mira’s high storey leap (please don’t try that at home) and the limb tearing Spider Tank battle. Although we get an arachnid-armoured vehicle in this movie, the comical Tachikomas of Stand Alone Complex are completely absent from proceedings. What a shame. Their inclusion would have added some much needed levity to a script that is totally humourless.

VERDICT

My rating for Ghost in the Shell is a three out of five. Judged on its own merits, I think the movie is fine. It’s a different beast to the 1995 film, but then again so was Stand Alone Complex and I don’t hear anyone complaining about that series. Some fans have pre-emptively decided that the movie was terrible, based on the trailer, and not given this 2017 remake a chance. Although the story starts off slow it steadily improves as the 106 minute running time ticks by. Perhaps the movie would have been better received if the characters had more personality? Apart from Mira’s sidekick Batou, everyone is sombre and devoid of emotion. GITS isn’t perfect, but at the very least it is no Dragonball Evolution. The makers had respect for the source material and have put effort into the production.

I suspect this movie would have suffered less ire if it weren’t titled Ghost in the Shell. With some alterations the script could have worked as a Robocop sequel, given how part of the plot deals with a law enforcement cyborg that is at odds with the company responsible for resurrecting her. The philosophical question of what a soul is gets explored in the movie, but less extensively than in the cartoon. Hollywood after all has no confidence that cinemagoers have the intelligence required to understand such concepts. Studio execs do however believe that viewers are smart enough to read subtitles. Just as well, because one of the token Asian actors they cast couldn’t be bothered to deliver his lines in English. How lazy. Maybe they should have whitewashed that character too?

 

30 thoughts on “Review of Ghost in the Shell (2017)

  1. Well, you are right, this movie certainly did not have a “ghost” of a chance (love the pun by the way). I said as much in my own review, this film was pretty much doomed from the start. A real shame because I really liked it. Certainly the original was terrific, but I don’t think any live action adapatation could have pulled off what they did with the anime. That said, this film I think of as Ghost in the Shell light. It has certainly the same spirit, or Ghost if you like (lol), while also treading it’s own path. It’s a real shame this movie got the backlash it recieved. I think it’s pretty much unfair.
    I really enjoyed your review, especially the part about cyberorganics making you write reviews faster….we could all do with that lol 😂 Thanks for sharing your thoughts 😊

  2. “one of the token Asian actors they cast couldn’t be bothered to deliver his lines in English.”

    You heathen! That “token actor” is the legendary “BEAT” Takeshi Kitano!!! He’s the King of Japanese Entertainment! 😡

    He doesn’t speak English so they let him speak Japanese instead and too right as he is a legend! That said he is wasted in the role but it’s Kitano so it’s all good! I suggest you forget anime and video games for a while and familiarise yourself with Japanese cinema and Kitano – starting with the seminal BATTLE ROYALE! 😛

    You’re right though – the film isn’t bad but it hampered by the GITS legacy and the curse of live action anime adaptations.

    • He only had a few lines. I’m sure he could have memorized some English phrases. 😉

      Fun fact, my video game knowledge is useful for identifying Kitano. Back in the eighties he helped design a NES game. From what I hear it wasn’t very good though.

    • If I were asked to pick an American for the role ScarJo would have been top of my list. She has the looks for the part and has previously played a strong female military style character, in the form of Black Widow. Shame that what should have been dream casting turned into a PR nightmare.

  3. I don’t have an emotional attachment to the original movies or SAC so whether they got it right or wrong doesn’t concern me. According to the less diehard they did a solid job capturing what made the first movie good but didn’t go all the way as you said. I’ll eventually give the movie a go.

    • Not being familiar with GITS will probably allow you to judge this movie more fairly than a diehard fan of the franchise. Some people put the 95 animation on a pedestal, as it’s the flick that got them into anime, so a live action remake was always going to struggle to meet those lofty expectations.

  4. It’s terrible when people judge a film just because they presume it’ll be terrible, instead of watching it. I’m only guilty of that with the Ghostbusters remake 😀 Great review!

    • Ghostbusters is certainly another example of a film people had dismissed based on the trailer alone. Tonally I would however say that Ghost in the Shell is closer to the original film, it was inspired by, than Paul Feig’s paranormal reboot.

  5. The token Asian guy you’re talking about is Beat Takeshi – a Japanese actor/director with a whole lot of films behind him. I don’t think he speaks English, but he has been in a few other western films like the adaptation of Johnny Mnemonic. He’s made some really good cop vs. gangster and gangster vs. gangster movies that are well worth checking out. Honestly a weird casting choice, though, because not too many people know him in the West outside of the fact that he was the feudal lord character in that Extreme Elimination show that got dubbed and was run on Spike TV.

    I didn’t see this movie, but I’ve heard from other sources that it’s okay. I agree that it’s not fair to be biased against it right out of the gate, despite the fact that live-action adaptations of anime series and movie tend not to be that great.

    • I’m familiar with that show. Takeshi’s Castle used to air on TV in the UK years ago. The footage was funny, as was the commentary (done by Red Dwarf actor Craig Charles.) I wonder if Section Nine train by tackling those wacky obstacle courses.

    • Maybe you can adjust the hue settings on your TV to make the purple hair appear pink 🙂 I wonder what would happen if an American studio made a FF13 movie. Would fans demand that Lightning be played by an Asian?

  6. I definitely agree that trying to simultaneously live up to the expectations of existing fans, and make the film accessible to newcomers, is a tall order. I do sympathize with the challenge the filmmakers faced. Simply recreating the original film as a live action would never fly, but almost anything else was slated to receive harsh criticism, since the series has 3-4 different iterations, depending on whether you consider 2nd Gig to be separate or a continuation of Stand Alone Complex.

    In some ways this film reminded me of the Silent Hill film.
    Both projects cherry picked some of the most iconic scenes and details from multiple independent existing iterations of the franchise, and tried to stitch them together into a sortof homage to the series as a whole.

    The problem is combining multiple existing iterations frequently creates conflicts, and omits key components of each iteration, which set the stage for the pivotal moments that are now being “imitated” without the proper buildup.

    I enjoyed watching the film. It was interesting as an experiment in storytelling, but some ways I think it would have been better if the filmmakers began with their own idea of “what story do we want to tell”, instead of starting with specific scenes and pieces that they wanted to recreate and stitch together.
    It felt like the film was trying to engage too many issues/ideas in its timeframe, and lacked a certain unity because of that.

    I thought the idea of “consent” for a full cyborg like Major Kusanagi was a very interesting, and underdeveloped plot point. Granted one of the main villains definitely regarded her as property, rather an individual, but there wasn’t any point in the story where it felt like that was an immediate issue for the Major herself. If some characters had treated her like an object, or asserted the idea that she could be modified or deactivated without her consent, much like what Star Trek did with Commander Data, that could have lent more credence to her search for a past, and her issue with identity.

    I did like the scene where Batou was changed, and he said “I don’t want to scare the dogs.” That recognition of his change, and the discomfort in his voice, was a brief but powerful moment for the story.

    • That does seem to be a problem with many live action adaptations. Script writers cherry pick cool moments from the source material, which makes for some cool scenes, but overall doesn’t mesh together story wise. I like your idea of placing more emphasis on giving consent. Maybe the creators feared that treating the Major like property too much would get them branded a Robocop knock off?

      One of the reasons why I felt Batou had more personality than other characters was because of the doggie interactions. Using a pooch is always a good tactic for getting an emotional response from movie goers.

    • From what I hear the movie recouped its budget based on worldwide box office, but if you take into account marketing costs it probably lost money. Maybe it can turn a profit on the home video market? Execs are clearly unhappy with the movie’s earnings because the official soundtrack release was cancelled.

      • Yes, the marketing costs are what really caused the movie to lose money. I remember writing about the exact figures, but I think it was over $50 million.

  7. I’m unlikely to ever watch this, not because of some fear of it betraying the original but because I’m not too enamored of the original. I’m actually struggling to finish SAC.

    • It’s not a 4kids case of the studio changing a Japanese name just for the sake of it. You would have to watch the film to find out what I mean though, because the explanation is a bit of a spoiler.

  8. I heard a lot of people say that this film sucked but if it’s better than Dragon Ball: Evolution then it deserved a chance to be judged fairly. Never really understood the backlash but then again SJW get upset for the sake of being upset.

    • From what I recall your posts on Ghost in the Shell were lukewarm on the series so you probably wouldn’t like this film. It is however much better than Dragon Ball: Evolution. That’s not saying much though 😉

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