Ghost In The Shell

Ghost in the Shell is a film adaptation of a 1989 manga and subsequent 1995 anime. Set in the “not so distant future,” Scarlet Johansson plays as Major, the first functioning human brain/consciousness saved from an accident and placed into a full cybernetic body. Effectively, she is the perfect soldier and member of the Section 9 special task-force devoted to counter-terrorism operations.

As an adaptation, fans of the franchise will be pleased to know that Ghost in the shell nails the aesthetic and tone of the source material to provide a stunning, “lived in” future world. The special effects are excellent and really shine to bring this film to life and help us understand the world these characters inhabit.

The characters themselves, while “cool,” lack any real depth. It is not that Scarlet Johansson does an excellent job at being pensive and fits the role fine. It is just that there is no real human quality to her for us to attach to. Instead, everything she does feel “robotic.” Similar to her performance in Lucy with a little bit of Black Widow from the marvel universe crossed in.

Yes, I know she is supposed to be a cyborg. But the film wants us to believe she has actual interest in finding out who she was before the “accident,” but she shows very little human emotion to get us there. Furthermore, if she was the first human mind saved and put into a cyborg body, why doesn’t she show more human emotion when she starts to uncover her past. Meanwhile, her partner, Batou (Pilou Asbaek) showcases just slightly more emotion because he likes to feed stray dogs, however in his case, we at least understand that he is a loyal solder and friend to Major, and thus understand why he is along for the ride.

Additionally (or perhaps as a result) the story suffers from some pacing issues as the film doesn’t always provide clear or strong markers to help the viewer understand what exactly is motivating the characters throughout the film. Rather the film often holds a bit too long on sequences in an attempt to showcase the beautiful world and let the view ponder their own meaning of what they are watching.

This becomes problematic as the characters never really become likeable or establish any depth beyond the paint by numbers plot. Human becomes Cyborg, Cyborg works for a corporation/government, Cyborg figures out they have been lied to, revenge ensues.

In the end, I found myself checking my watch more than I had hoped as the film felt long and tired. If it wasn’t for the stunning world created on screen I would have been completely bored. It’s a shame because I really wanted to like this film. I cannot help but think that if this film had come out in 1999, it would have been amazing!

But in 2017 it feels average at best. Still, Ghost in the Shell is an adequate adaptation that fans of the franchise will enjoy. However I feel this adaptation does not help elevate the franchise beyond what the 1995 Anime has already accomplished.

2 out of 5 stars