REVIEW: Ghost in the Shell (2017)

Theatrical Release Poster – Paramount Pictures

The following is a review of Ghost in the Shell – Directed by Rupert Sanders

Rupert Sanders’ Ghost in the Shell is a science fiction action film based on a Japanese science fiction franchise created by Masamune Shirow. The film is set in the near future, and it tells the story of Mira Killian (played by Scarlett Johansson) whose brain is implanted in a complete cyborg body following a terrorist attack. One year after being inserted into her new body, Major Mira Killian starts questioning her memories and her past when she constantly experiences these vision glitches during missions.

I feel like I need to preface the rest of this review by stating that I’ve never seen the Ghost in the Shell anime films or series, I’ve never read the manga either. I’ve just never come across it. Therefore I am not a fan of the source material, and I can’t give you the fan perspective. If that is, indeed, what you’re looking for, then you should look elsewhere.

The only bits and pieces I knew about the film or the story were gathered from trailers and a 15-to-20 minute IMAX 3D preview that I got to see a few weeks ago, or so. Now, with that out of the way, let’s talk about Ghost in the Shell.

I think Sanders’ adaptation of Ghost in the Shell is one of those examples of a film that is essentially ‘dead on arrival’ due to extreme backlash from fans and critics alike over the casting of a white actress in the leading role.

Now, I, actually, never wanted for this review to directly discuss the controversy itself. But the filmmakers behind this adaptation have actually somewhat made the whitewashing controversy a part of the plot.

Therefore, I feel like I need to – somehow – awkwardly talk around it. It is a really strange choice and, unless you’ve seen the film, I doubt that you’ll be able to guess what they’ve actually done. I’ll tell you this much, it doesn’t work very well.

I think it is something that could offend and enrage a lot of people. But that odd decision isn’t my biggest problem with this film. Ghost in the Shell is a movie about losing your identity, and the film’s protagonist struggles with finding herself within a completely new cyborg body.

Over the course of the film, Major must discover her link to her ‘ghost’ or soul. Well, it is very odd then that, although the film looks fantastic, it feels very hollow. It is hard to escape the feeling that this film is somewhat soulless and devoid of purpose, heart, and energy. Also, the ending of the film feels like the most cookie-cutter franchise-opening superhero movie ending I’ve seen in a long time.

Pacing is another problem for this film. The movie moves surprisingly slow for a science fiction action film, and I don’t think the adaptation manages to engage you as a viewer. There is also some really wonky and exposition heavy dialogue that bothered me.

It is, of course, never a good sign when you check the time to see how long you’ve been sitting in the theater. But when it felt like I had been sitting there for almost two hours, it had, in fact, only been on screen for about an hour, or so. Not long thereafter I noticed that some people were walking out of the movie theater and they never got back into their seats.

If you’ve gotten this far into the review, then Ghost in the Shell probably sounds like one of the worst blockbuster movies in a very long time. But if you’re okay with the casting decision and you just want to watch something impressive, then I think you’re still going to have a good time. You see, while this film is flawed, I think there is also a lot of good things to say about it.

Although I do think it feels slightly overwhelming at times, the visual effects in Ghost in the Shell are stunning. The look of the film is going to – and should – remind you of the futuristic setting of Blade Runner.

I think there is some pretty cool action in this film, and Scarlett Johansson is always fun to watch. Johansson is an entertaining and exciting blockbuster movie star, and even though I don’t think Ghost in the Shell is going to be a long-running film series for her, she does some good work in the film.

However, I was much more impressed with Pilou Asbæk as Batou. Batou is the most engaging and entertaining supporting character in Ghost in the Shell. There is a humanity and charisma to him that is really appealing. I’m really glad they gave Asbæk a chance with this role. I really wish Batou and Major were in even more scenes together, as I sense that could be a good friendship to explore further.

All in all, while Ghost in the Shell cannot escape the whitewashing controversy, there are some things to enjoy about the film, even if it mostly is an uninvolving science fiction action film.

5.5 out of 10

– Jeffrey Rex

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2 comments

  1. This was a great film, I look forward to watching it again. I am disappointed only with the critics and reception. The film is extremely well done, fun, energetic, does the original justice and the story brings about the importance of our personal identity, technology and human rights. How can you have rights if a corporation manufactured you? The main character finds out and the observer gets to follow as the mystery unfolds.

    1. I think there is a lot to enjoy in the film. So, I’m not surprised to hear that you really liked it. I can’t speak to the original film, but I feel like the reaction to the casting had an impact on the story here.

      Is the overall critical reception harsh? Sure. I don’t think it is an awful film. As I mentioned, I loved Batou, and I think his relationship with Major was really interesting.

      Thanks for the comment!

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