Back in 1995, the animation world was taken by storm by Japanese anime known as “Ghost in the Shell,” which is considered one of the greatest animated films of all time. A live-action adaptation of that anime was stuck in development for the longest time, with various iterations popping up over the years up until its release now. This new version, by director Rupert Sanders of “Snow White and the Huntsman” fame, features few of the same philosophical concepts as the original film, but what really makes this film shine is the visual splendor that is employed in every frame of the film, which is assisted by Scarlett Johansson’s performance.
The film follows a cyborg known as the Major (Scarlett Johansson), who works for the covert agency known as Section 9, headed by Chief Daisuke Aramaki (Takeshi Kitano); she is partnered up with fellow operatives Batou (Pilou Asbæk) and Togusa (Chin Han) to deal with cyber terrorism and other major crimes. The Major is the first successful subject to have her human brain successfully melded with a cybernetic body, destined to usher in a new wave of human evolution.
However, with no memory of her past, the Major begins to question her identity; with a few, sparse bursts of memory coming back, she begins to search for answers, much to the chagrin of her creators, Hanka Robotics, who wish her to simply be a weapon and nothing more. With the assistance of Section 9, Major attempts to find out who she once was, while also going after the elusive hacker known as Kuze (Michael Pitt), who has been eliminating senior ranking members of Hanka Robotics.
What stands out most in this film to begin with is the stylish, Blade Runner-esque look and feel that this film generates. This is hands down one of the slickest and most visually striking films to ever come out in a while, with gorgeous holograms, cityscapes and neon lights permeating every frame of the film. Everything feels intricately shot and choreographed, with the cinematography and movement of characters and objects throughout these wondrous locales being exceptionally put together.
Performances are overall serviceable, with Asbæk and Johansson showcasing the best performances and chemistry in the film. Although, Kitano and Juliette Binoche, who portrays the creator of the Major, are not too far behind as they provide gravitas and paternal relationships to the Major character.
A few downsides emerge, including a lack of concrete philosophical questions in the film compared to other iterations of the anime. Any philosophical content that is present is merely glossed over or provided in a simple way. The dialogue is not too shabby, and the plot is decently put together but lacks the greater scope that the anime film conveyed. The plot opts to go for a less complex revenge story that overwhelms the second half with a moustache-twirling villain, but isn’t enough to take me out of the film.
In the end, the film is not a completely successful take on the anime and manga on which it is based, but it is still a very enjoyable and entertaining visual ride with enough good performances, visuals and synth and orchestral music to overcome some philosophical and narrative faults.
Film: “Ghost in the Shell”
Directed by: Rupert Sanders
Release Date: March 31st
Rating: 4 out of 5