Director: Rupert Sanders
Starring: Scarlett Johansson, Pilou Asbaek & Takeshi Kitano
Synopsis: In the near future, Major is the first of her kind: A human saved from a terrible crash, who is cyber-enhanced to be a perfect soldier devoted to stopping the world’s most dangerous criminals.
Rating: 12A Duration: 107 minutes Release date: 24 July (UK) – Digital download
There are times when Ghost in the Shell is a bloody brilliant film. The sheer beauty of the film is something that should be applauded as it is truly one of the finest looking films in recent memory. Despite its stunning visuals though, Ghost in the Shell is sadly a vacuous film lacking any real substance or relevance.
Based upon the 1995 animé of the same name, Ghost in the Shell is a futuristic thriller where the lines between humans and robots has become blurred and a distrust is born through the desire to keep up with technology or retain old world values. Humans have begun to augment themselves with cybernetic features to enhance their bodies in various ways, but of course a large conglomerate has used the technology to create a breed of super-soldiers. Major (Scarlett Johansson) is one such solider and works for Section 9 as an anti-terrorism agent. After successfully stopping an attack at a conference, Major becomes plagued by glitches and the past life she is now struggling to remember. As she digs deeper for answers, Major uncovers a truth she may wish had stayed buried.
The original Ghost in the Shell is a film that can rightly be credited with influencing the look and style of many modern science-fiction films. Take a look at The Matrix, AI, I Robot and Ex Machina and you will find many similarities with the popular and genre bursting original animé. And in some sort of twisted turn of events, despite being spectacular to look at, Ghost in the Shell 2017 invariably now looks like the very films the 1995 version influenced. What was that saying about pop culture eating itself? It’s a complete turn around and it is safe to say that this modern version, with all its bells and whistles will not be regarded in the same way that its predecessor will. It’s also sad in a way, because this Scarlett Johansson led version is not all that bad, it’s just derivative and lacking in a spark to really engage its audience.
The acting itself is fine. Johansson seems to have perfected the vacant stare she holds in many of her films. But, you do start to wonder whether she is being typecast now as an actress who shows little in the way of emotion, with the camera staring longingly at her hoping for some form of reaction. Her support is able and rounds out the cast well, with her colleagues at Section 9 providing necessary backup and nicely feel like an actual team who know each other and have spent a long time in each others company. Pilou Abaek in particular gets some nice moments with Johansson and stands out as one of the more memorable characters in the film. “Beat” Takeshi Kitano as the leader of Section 9 emotes more than he says and shows his skill and experience here with a very accomplished performance.
What does let the film down, however, is the monotonous script and predictable storytelling. You won’t have to take many guesses to know where the film is headed and director Rupert Sanders doesn’t do much to sway you from that course of thinking. It’s a literal A to B of plot devices and clichés, with the odd action scene scattered in for good measure. The action in all fairness, is well directed and pretty satisfying, with the finale proving very pleasing. We needed more of this though, more doing & less talking, more showing & less telling even if it is bloody lovely to look at.
- Section 9: Cyber Defenders
- Man & Machine: The Ghost Philosophy
Two 10 minute featurettes accompany the digital release of Ghost in the Shell, but are sadly both by the numbers affairs which are aimed more at selling the film rather than explaining the making of it. A more fulfilling documentary or a director’s commentary would have been nice here, looking at the style and structure of the film instead of the talking heads saying how nice everyone is.