“Ghost in the Shell” stars, Scarlett Johansson and it’s directed by Rupert Sanders. This is film-adaptation of the manga and anime’s written by Masamune Shirow. I will admit, I have not seen too many anime’s, have never seen any of the “Ghost in the Shell” material, so I will be reviewing this film on its own merits, and not comparing and contrasting this one, with its source material.
The story follows Major, she was saved from a tragic accident and her body was unable to be saved. Her brain has been implanted into an enhanced cyborg that is heralded as a first of its kind weapon. Her mission is to take down dangerous criminals but she cannot get these flashes of fragmented memories out of her mind, and she will begin to question the circumstances of her own creation.
Now I went into this film with a completely open mind. I love science-fiction, love action films, as well as futuristic settings, so regardless of knowing nothing about this property I was highly intrigued. So, let’s get right into the good things about this film. The visuals first and foremost.
This was a beautifully crafted film from start to finish. There was so much green-screen work in this movie but it still comes off as very realistic. The depth of the CG settings added with the somewhat weathered color pallet do a fantastic job of creating a smooth seamless flow between the practical and special-effects.
There was one visually stunning scene after another and it locks your attention in the entire time. It also creates a very intriguing backdrop and setting to this story. It’s futuristic and clearly high-tech, but not overly polished, and still somewhat grimy, and on their own, the settings tell a great story.
The wardrobes and costume designs were also on point. Everything fits together and with all the various human enhancements and the blending in of robots and cyborgs does a fantastic job of creating many odd and unique characters that pull your attention and get you thinking. There were times human characters were actually cyborgs and with all this going on it creates an enjoyable element of the unknown.
Now let’s talk performances. Scarlett Johansson’s casting in this role caused a wave of backlash and once again the “White-washing of Hollywood” talks kicked back up again and yada yada… we all know about that. But as far as her performance. It was good, not great, nothing that would blow your mind, but it was serviceable for this plot. She conveyed robotic feel like she should have and she showed some effort despite not showing too much visual emotion.
Pilou Asbaek at Batou was also a solid side character and the performance of Takeshi Kitano and Juliette Binoche were also very good despite being given minimal screen-time. As for Michael Pitt, he was also very good. I really enjoy his work, I think he is and underrated actor and while he gives a solid performance in this film, it did feel familiar to some of his past characters.
Overall though, the performances were all solid for what this film needed. But the true stars of this one are clearly Masamune Shirow for his creation of such an interesting and thought-provoking concept for a story. As well as all the crew who worked on the special-effects because they were vivid, eye-grabbing and fantastic overall.
Director Rupert Sanders and Directory of Photography Jess Hall also worked together very well to… like I said create just a crisp, beautiful movie, with a great science-fiction setting that worked in an eerie, attention getting, musical score which all fit together perfectly.
With all that said, let’s get into some of the issues I had with this movie, and there were only a couple problems I had with it. Unfortunately though, they were impactful. I loved the concept of this story, it has so many layers to the world it is set in, but to me, this movie told its story in a very routine way. The ambition in creating this entire idea for a story is top-notch but the story-line follows a very routine formula. Now like I said I know nothing about the source material and this one could have been very similar.
But to me there was a segment of this film where the story begins to feel surprisingly predictable and it did kill the intrigue for me a little. It was a little slow in the second-act and I know it was telling its story, and building its plot. But there were a lot of scenes that despite all the visual over-coating still felt somewhat routine.
Another issue I had was with the action. Now I’m not saying it was bad because it wasn’t. But it also, was a little routine as well. It was a little over-edited and yes it was entertaining. There were some solid moments of good action. But with the settings this one had, and what we know Johansson can do in the action genre, there were some sequences that felt watered down.
With all the visual appeal this movie had going for it, if the action choreography had a fraction of the ambition that element did, the result could have been jaw-dropping. But it wasn’t and in the end this was an enjoyable movie, but with a few tweaks it could have been a great one. It is worth checking out in theaters though, it’s a visual feast, and a fun science-fiction story.