Director: Rupert Sanders
Cast Headliners: Scarlet Johannsson, Pilou Asbaek, Michael Pitt
Original Release Date: March 31, 2017
It’s wild to think this film exists in the first place. An American , live action adaptation of classic manga/anime Ghost in the Shell? That almost once happened under the Disney umbrella? Regardless if it was there or released under who it is now, Paramount, one can assume it’d turn out similarly to this. Ghost in the Shell takes the classic franchise and attempts to both serve as tribute to the original while serving as an entry point for newcomers. It has its ups and downs while certainly appearing shiny along the way.
In semi-far future Japan, operatives of secret government agency Section 9 do… deep government espionage and anti-criminal work. Their organization is never really explored deeply and as much of the plot happens it just kind of comes and goes. The Major (Scarlet Johannsson) is both the main protagonist of the film and centerpiece of the unit. She is a living brain in a humanlike body. Which means she is a super powerful android / cyborg with powerful abilities including invisibility cloaking and withstanding pain. Helping her in her unit are various other soldiers and cyborgs including the wisecracking and friendly Batou (Pilou Asbaek).
For a movie about humans and cyborgs it’s not too surprising that there is a few stale actors but, not to compare to the original anime film or series, the supporting cast is especially unmemorable. Asbaek’s Batou serves as a fitting version of the original character, with jokes and a fearsome sense to him he brings it his all. However the rest of the Section 9 / Hanka Robotic’s “crew” don’t really stick, with people like Chin Han’s Togusa, Juliette Binoche’s Dr.Ouelet, and Peter Ferdinando’s Cutter boring with exposition and attempted serious concern more than adding to drama. Commander of the group above the Major is a well meant Chief Daisuke Aramaki (Beat Kitano) but for some reason he’s the only character in the film who speaks Japanese in a cast of English speakers which creates a dissonance.
This would be made up for more if the Major was a great protagonist , and she can be in the anime, but here.. it’s varying. There’s been controversy about Johansson’s casting, but aside from that what we do get is….. alright. She really attempts to have no emotion and be robot-like down to some awkward movemonts. But there are moments too where she can be cool especially as some more emotional reveals and stakes happen. Her scenes with villain Kuze (Michael Pitt) raise his quality as well, they have semi-intense standoffs that otherwise he comes across as silly.
The script and plot are for the most part mundane. However, they do a good job of making the world easy to understand for newcomers while weaving together elements from the film, series, and original stuff to mostly work. The dialogue and themes aren’t nothing too crazy from what one has seen before and don’t reach their source’s heights but the twists and excitement do have their impact. There is plentiful action and intrigue at least. Although it drags at parts before reaching the good.
And what a world to learn it is. Director Rupert Sander’s is known for his visual knack, and the same is true here. The vistas and art design of cityscapes and interiors are absolutely a overwhelming sight for the senses. Almost too much in fact, it feels like one is in some sort of Tron sequel at parts. But they are colorful when they need to be, drab when they need to be. This applies to various cyborg people as well. The action Is frenetic. The music has some of the incredible original (mostly in the shot for shot opening sequence which is just as powerful) with original score as well.
So overall, it’s a film with a deep amount of style, and attempts at substance. Fans of the anime , who don’t mind some changes to casting and plot, will like to see it come to life in a new way. For newcomers, it’s a competent , shiny, if straightforward action sci-fi to view in one’s free time. It could have been better, but it also could have been far worse. 7.5 out of 10