Review: Ghost in the Shell (2017)

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.

Plot

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.

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The opening screen of Ghost in the Shell

Characters/Casting:

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.

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Setting/Effects:

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.

Overall

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.

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4 thoughts on “Review: Ghost in the Shell (2017)

  1. Between die-hard fans of the various incarnations of GITS to newcomers such as yourself (as a fan of the 1995 film and its sequel, I sit somewhere in the middle), this one’s been getting a pretty mixed reception.

    What you say about hinted backstory with secondary characters leads me to believe that it’s got more in it for the fans than your casual movie-goer.

    Your 6.5 score leads me to believe that I’m going to have to check this out for myself. Thanks for sharing your thoughts with this review.

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  2. I’m a fan of the 1995 film. I was and still am fairly skeptical of this live-action release. The trailer looks well produced and the visual style looks spot on, but—as you touched on, there’s almost always a missing subtlety and depth in these Hollywood re-mines/re-boots/cash camels.

    I really want to know what you think when you watch the 1995 version.
    Can you update us?

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  3. I am extremely hesitant to watch the live-action movie and after hearing so many mixed reviews on it, I was quite put off! However, after reading your review I’m really interested in seeing how Scarlett plays her role. You’re most likely right about the lack of depth in the story, and I feel it’s not uncommon that a director tries to put several stories into the one movie… but your 6.5/10 gives me hope that there is something done right!

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  4. Great review. With all the hype and hate surrounding this live action remake I decided to check out the original 1995 film a few weeks ago and loved it. As much as I love Scarjo, I think I’ll have to give this one a miss.

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