Ghost in the Shell 2017 review

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This ghost is scary good…

Ghost in the Shell 2017 is the live adaption remake of the thought provoking Japanimation classic original of the same name from 1995. With live adaption remakes all the rage these days, it was only a matter of time before Hollywood starting expanding its boundaries for inspiration by looking past its borders at foreign films and Japanese anime. This is great news for us fans who enjoy diverse storytelling because there is lot of creatively unique potential that can be mined from the foreign market.  The original Ghost in the Shell was a cult classic which launched inspiration for many modern science fiction film ideas which we come to know today as it is probably most famous for being the main source of inspiration for films like The Matrix.  The animated film also made you think by asking profound questions about the human existence. What does it mean to be human? Does it mean having a soul? Is your mind all that is needed or do you need a body comprised of human flesh? Is human consciousness just another form of programming? Does technology enhance the human experience or does it rob us of our souls?

I had a chance to watch the original recently and was blown away by how fascinating of a film it was.  I could see why remaking it would be an interesting idea. As with any remake, there was lot of questions about whether all the source material would be able to be translated to the big screen faithfully. Also, there were concerns about the film being dumbed down for mass market consumption.  This seems to be the price that fans must pay these days if they want to see their favorites on the screen in modernized remakes.  Some of this does happen but not in a way that is blatantly offensive. 

Ghost in the Shell takes place in a future where humans have embraced cybernetic enhancements.  It is not uncommon to see someone with camera lens eyes or hands with fingers that have their own fingers.  Mostly everyone has some sort of computer like hard drive also installed in their minds that gives them unique capabilities.  Major Motoko Kusanagi is the next stage however as she is the first fully realized human cyborg.  She is basically all synthetic human but she still has her original human brain. Essentially, she still has her “ghost”.  She was created by the Hanka Electronics Corporation because they claim her original human body was destroyed in a terrorism accident that nearly killed her. The Major represents the ideal being in a sense that she has all the benefits of cyborg body but the self-awareness to think for herself as a person.  Being that the Major is considered a weapon by some, she gets assigned to the Section 9 crime division which focuses on battling cyber-crime.   Soon after the Major’s creation, terrorism takes on a different approach with the ability to cyber hack into people’s brain and reprogram their minds.  As Section 9 looks deeper to find out who is the mastermind behind this new wave of crime, the Major learns more about her past and how she came into existence along with realizing that the present circumstances she knows may not be completely what she perceives it to be.

This story is slightly different from the Japanimation original.  There was more ambiguity in that one concerning the villain while there is a more direct stereotypical villain in the remake.  The story of the Major was also left vague in the animated version while being more fleshed out for the big screen.  Beat for beat the story is changed a bit, but we are given plenty of iconic scene recreations from the original.  One of the few negatives which I took away from watching this, is that there is minimal character development.  We don’t get to learn much about anyone else besides the Major.  Also, left out is some more about how technology and politics interplay with each other in this world.  The Major just sort of existed in the anime without her past being made known to the audience.  By focusing more on the Major’s past, the live adaption treads into Robocop territory which might blur the line of the story trying to be told. 

All that being said, I really enjoyed watching this one. This is one visually stunning movie.  For a film that has a lot of CGI, it is hard to tell in that it is done so magnificently.  I was especially blown away by the presentation of the city’s urban vastness.  It was incredible.  Scarlett Johansson received a lot of flak for being cast as the Major, but she does a great job portraying the emotionless human cyborg. This role is perfect for her as she proves that she is a sure fire action star. In fact, the only thing I could find wrong was that she blinked sometimes which the animated Major never did.  Scarlett looks beautiful as always.  She doesn’t get naked like the Major does in the anime for her invisibility cloak, but let’s just say her body is represented well in this one.  Pilou Asbaek is perfect for the role of the Major’s partner, Batou.  It was also great to see Takeshi Kitano and Ng Chin Han in their supporting roles as well.  The film’s story, while different, is still able to make you think about the same issues that are brought up in the original.  In my opinion, this is an acceptable compromise.  There is also some good action in here but not necessarily long sequences that would overwhelm anyone. 

With the movie season swinging into full gear, Ghost in the Shell delivers in entertainment value. Also, fans of anime should be excited knowing that the success of this movie could lead to more interesting reproductions that the American market might never have heard of.  Easily one of the better movies of the season, Ghost in the Shell offers a satisfying blend of science fiction thriller and action. You don’t need to watch the original to appreciate this as it works fine as a standalone while still paying homage to it’s animated predecessor.  Combining a solid story with breathtaking visuals, this is one movie that should be checked out on the big screen as soon as you get the chance.

Grade: B+

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