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.
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.
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?