The 2017 movie Ghost in the Shell directed by Rupert Sanders and starring Scarlett Johansson is the first live-action version to be made from its original source material. It takes the main characters and concept, and then leaves the audience splashing about in rock pools stories when they really just want to be swept into a deep, emotional ocean.
Ghost in the Shell started as a Manga in the 80s and has since been made and adapted into several Japanese animated movies and television shows until 2015, when the last animated movie was made.
For myself, this live-action telling is the first foray into the fandom. I was aware that the previous incarnations existed, and had a general overview knowledge of what they were about, but hadn’t seen them.
The story was interesting but completely overloaded. It felt as if they were trying to put several movies into the one film, and the character and world building were pushed aside as a second thought.
I felt this movie cried out to be stripped back, so that we could fully engage with the world and what was happening in it.
The main character of Major is definitely interesting, and Johansson does a spectacular job of balancing an emotional human mind against the cold cyborg-soldier. It is a shame that the script didn’t allow her to show a strong emotional development throughout the film, as she had many different plots to react to at the same time.
It is also good to see a strong female character in Major. However, this strength was only promised through a great performance and not presented in her character on screen. Major’s main arcs are of finding herself and her place in the world, but the answer becomes dependent on male characters, rather than internal reflection.
The background characters seem very interesting and engaging, an achievement when one considers how few lines and scenes they actually get. If you were to ask me their names I wouldn’t be able to without jumping on imdb.com, but each left a good impression.
If I hadn’t known that the source material existed, then the brief encounters with the side and background characters would have been enough to make me realise that there is a bigger, more comprehensive mythos behind them. It’s just a shame none of it is seen.
If one were to have no knowledge of its previous incarnations, the backgrounds in Ghost in the Shell would still instantly scream manga/anime. It’s colourful and industrial in that stylised version of futuristic Japan that occurs frequently in their graphic animations.
Similarly, the movie is intensely cinematographic with special effects which excellently portray the technological nature of the world while hinting at the dystopian life beneath. Both elements made me want to know more about the world, how it got to that point and how people live in it.
I would give Ghost in the Shell 6.5/10. It’s a good action movie and futuristic scifi adventure, but it lacks the depth and strong, focused story that it is noticeably begging for.