Viewed in IMAX 3D
The original Ghost in the Shell was the second anime I ever watched (first was Akira) several hundred years ago when I was 17. While I was not blown away by the voice acting, the movie’s themes, music, visuals and story were far ahead of their time and are a part of what makes the film a fan favorite to this day. In many ways I feel the exact same way about 2017’s Ghost in the Shell although it does not have what it takes to live alongside the original.
I will do this without any spoilers so I will have to leave the best parts out:
The live action Ghost in the Shell is largely based on the original film with some touches of Ghost in the Shell: Arise mixed in for flavor. In a future where robots and cyber-enhanced humans are becoming commonplace, a cyborg named Major Mira Killian (Scarlett Johansson) works as a part of an anti-terrorist unit called Section 9. After successfully stopping an attack which is largely recreated from the opening of the original film, the Major sets out on a mission to find the people behind the attack and discover more about her own identity in the process.
Ghost in the Shell will most likely win some awards for special effects as the movie is gorgeous. The films futuristic vision of Japan is brilliantly realized with holographic advertisements hovering around the city (let’s face it, if you have been to Akihabara this is not too far from being reality) and robot Geishas being some of the highlights. The artists on this film were true to the source material with entire locations from the original film recreated down to the last detail. If you are a fan than you will instantly recognize the films characters and some key scenes from the original were redone very well with tons of fan service throughout. Another place where the movie excels is in its action scenes. While there aren’t as many as I would have liked, the action was done very well. Key battles from the original make an appearance in this reimagining and some where almost recreated shot for shot.
Scarlett Johansson’s performance as the Major is great for the most part. It kind of falls apart at times during some of her movements. She walks in a way that shows that she is in fact a cyborg which is a nice touch and well done for the most part but there are a few scenes where it is overexaggerated and kills the intent of the scene. It reminded me of the difference between the way Christian Bale handled doing Batman’s voice in Batman Begins vs whatever the Hell he called himself doing in the Dark Knight. Another place where the movie falls short sadly is the story. It’s good enough given that it is a retelling of the original (with some nice original stuff thrown in) but there are some scenes that felt out-of-place and other that felt as if the editors cut them too short. The result is that the middle of the film drags and feels a tad bit unbalanced. I also felt that extra attention was paid to filling in parts of the story that the filmmakers may have felt was missing from the original anime that just didn’t need to be there. Sometimes giving all the answers can be too much.
Overall 2017’s Ghost in the Shell was good, not great…but good. If you have already made up your mind to hate the movie simply because Scarlett Johansson was cast as the lead then nothing will probably change your mind. I will admit that a Japanese actress could have easily been cast in the role but the film handles the character well and does a good job of explaining why she was cast in the part of the Major. With everything the film had against it I still could not bring myself to hate it. It’s a shame that with everything Ghost in the Shell does right, it does enough wrong to keep it from a much bigger audience.
Final Score: 7/10