The Japanese anime Ghost in the Shell is not only one of the most critically acclaimed sci-Fi cartoons ever made, it is one of the most acclaimed science fiction films, full stop. Conceptually and visually stunning, Mamoru Oshii’s cyberpunk-detective-strip bridges the gap between analog Blockbuster and the digital, between Blade Runner and Terminator, with cyborgs and androids, and The Matrix and Avatar, with their body-swaps, and virtual realities. The creators of the Matrix, in particular, were happy to confirm that they were in Oshii’s future-noir tracks.
The question then is, is it worth the trouble with a later live-action version? If you consider that the cartoon is now a cult classic, and some of the other films, their innovations, and run with them, can be a mega-budget Hollywood remake have nothing to offer of my own? The answer to both questions is a resounding Yes.
The basic concepts are no longer as stunning as they were 22 years ago
It is true that the core concepts are no longer as stunning as they were 22 years ago. Back in the year 1995, it was much weirder to see a world in which everyone was connected in a network so that they communicate and access information at the speed of thought. But the Plot has been cleverly updated and extended. Outrageous, to say it, the original anime Ghost in the Shell always feel as if you would have an additional half-hour runtime. There are all sorts of characters, and bureaucratic organisations, which were introduced were to disappear, at length exhausting, only, without a trace. At 80 minutes, it came across as the first Chapter of a sprawling saga, but as a whole story. On the contrary, the new movie, based on the screenplay by Jamie Moss, William Wheeler, and Ehren Kruger (and, reportedly, many others), researches and solves his ideas in a satisfactory manner – this is not to say that it leads to a sequel or three.
Scarlett Johansson plays a woman who was injured in a terrorist attack, only her brain could be saved. Luckily for her, it was then transferred to a smooth, shiny, produced of the body which happens to be the same shape as Scarlett Johansson. If the upgrade of its state-of-the-art chassis is not enough, comes with built-in super-strength, and camouflage technology. (The Parallels between Robocop and Frankenstein, more clearly than in the anime.) Only a few hazy memories from your previous life, the Mrs is the code-name of the main-and recruited by the government, heavily armed anti-terrorist response squad, section 9.
A year later, the very scientists who murdered this built bionic woman. Your own robot is reprogrammed and turned against you by a mysterious hacker (Michael Pitt), who bears a marked resemblance to Julian Assange, as shown in The Fifth Estate. Together with her ragtag team of colleagues, the Great, studied by in slicked back-alley bars, and send your consciousness is zipping through cyberspace, the revealing of the secrets of her own past along the way.
Doom and gloom
The new Ghost in the Shell is more plausible than the old one. Both a nightmarish body-horror Film, and a hard-boiled conspiracy thrillers, and it slots in a lot of pictures and scenes from the anime, while forging a story of its own (something that another film, adapted from a 1990’s cartoon, beauty and the beast, and failed miserably). Maybe the author went too far in spelling, your themes. Some of the clunky expositional dialogue have a twitch purists, and you will surely roll their eyes when a character explains the title: “Your body – your shell-synthetic, but your soul – your spirit is still in him.” But it’s probably for the best, that the story of the movie is relatively simple, if the spectacle and the atmosphere, which he conjures up so extraordinary.
I was afraid that I was going to have a panic attack
It is everything in a crowded Hong Kong-like metropolis. Any room that is not by skyscrapers by skyscraper-sized holograms, which loom indifferent deities, through the dark streets. It markings, change how you drive in the direction to you, it is a monstrous man with metal arms who could emigrated from Judge Dredd (comic strip, that is, not the movies), and it is dirty, strewn with garbage of the city in the shadow of the shiny glass corporate tower blocks. It is a city that is defined by artificiality: you never know, when you speak, a human, a cyborg, a robot or a hologram. And yet, paradoxically, this elaborately designed and detailed dystopia seems disturbingly real. I saw the movie in 3D on an Imax screen, and there were times when it was so dizzy and oppressive, that I was afraid that I was going to have a panic attack.
Be warned, though: anyone who is irritated by the doom and gloom in DC’s youngest super-hero trips to be angry of Ghost in the Shell, the often dark and ominous enough to Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice appearance of The Lego Batman movie. Its Director, after all, is Rupert Sanders. His debut, snow white and the huntsman, took a whimsical fairy tale and made it a particularly vacuous episode of Game of Thrones, and he has not raised them since then.
Another striking aspect of his vision is, how is multi-ethnic. The cast includes a French woman (Juliette Binoche) as the stressed-out mothers a doctor, brought the Major back to life, a Danish man (Pilou Asbaek), as the most Important, the hard and faithful sidekick, and a Japanese (‘Beat’ Takeshi Kitano) as your commanding officer. Johansson’s casting was controversial, because her character was changed from Asian-Caucasian, but in the context of the diverse society, through the film, it works. It is also undeniable that, after the main role in Lucy, Under the skin and The Avengers, Johansson is the obvious choice to play a troubled, not-quite-mortal combat machine, even if your jerky, robot-like gear is getting used.
The other characters have more personality than their animated counterparts, but they are still too incomplete to register, such as people that may interest you. They are essentially walking, talking, action figures, and your style full of empty Ghost in the Shell to admire is easier than to love. The film had a little more Humor and humanity, under its surface: rather a Ghost in the shell, in other words. But what an impressive dish, it is.