Film Critic and Writer for ComiConverse.com, the Founder and co-host of the official Nerdcast Network Podcast
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Mamoru Oshii’s Masterpiece Ghost In The Shell (1995) is being re-imagined in 2017 with a live-action adaptation. But with all the backlash how does the new film stack up? Find out as our Film Critic Jordan Samuel dives into the controversial movie.
Film Review: Ghost in the Shell (2017)
In the near future, Major (Scarlett Johansson) 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. When terrorism reaches a new level that includes the ability to hack into people’s minds and control them, Major is uniquely qualified to stop it. As she prepares to face a new enemy, Major discovers that she has been lied to: her life was not saved, it was stolen. She will stop at nothing to recover her past, find out who did this to her and stop them before they do it to others. Based on the internationally acclaimed Japanese Manga, “The Ghost in the Shell.”
The original Ghost in the Shell (1995) is a movie that made me fall in love with Japanese animation back in the day, balancing a serious tone with groundbreaking themes. Focusing on massive elements of sexuality and gender identity which led to the film being studied by various film colleges. It influenced iconic filmmakers The Wachowskis – creators of The Matrix (1999) – taking several concepts from the anime – including the digital rain sequences.
But does it work in giving the series a new life?
Ghost in the Shell (2017) is one visually striking remake that does many things right, with fantastic fight sequences and a solid soundtrack. Sadly, it just doesn’t transcend above the animated classic – as it fails to connect with a solid story-line or believable characters. Relying too heavily on the prior knowledge of the franchise, a choice that might annoy people who have just stumbled across the franchise with this Hollywood version.
Rupert Sanders (Snow White and the Huntsman) has a great deal of respect for the franchise, and with all the controversy around the casting does his best in producing one beautiful movie. But in his effort to be faithful, he forgets to add a cohesive story-line, and pull a stand out performance from Scarlett Johansson (Captain America: Civil War).
Ghost in the Shell (2017) is a fun ride, but without the depth found in the original; this just feels like another generic revenge story. Sanders throws in changes to the characters to better explain the backstory to Western Audiences who are not familiar with the manga version, but it falls flat in impact. Turning the remake into a simple revenge tale.
Scarlet Johansson is The Major, a human modified into a cyber super-solider who literally gets to kick ass for 2-hours on screen. Now with all the casting controversy Johansson delivers a decent enough performance, filled with the intrigue and grit. I enjoyed how relentlessly Scarlet Johansson embodies The Major, balancing what’s needed to portray the veteran solider with a confused memory perfectly.
The performance will not push racial barriers, but it was never intended to do that; Scarjo is not the overwhelming issue in this version.
Game of Throne‘s actor Pilou Asbaek is Batou, who sends in commands to The Major: he doesn’t fare well in channeling the iconic manga character. Being less faithful to the animated version, this character lacks most of the original’s likeable characteristics; including his subdued personality and less aggressive approach. He emotes the physicality needed in the role, but just comes across frozen next to his co-stars.
Pilou just comes across quite unlikable in the role. I would have preferred an older, more charismatic actor as Batou instead.
Micheal Pitt (Broadwalk Empire) as the hacker Kuze steals the show; with his menacing nature working in his favour during this take on the Laughing Man – an infused version of the classic villain. Sanders’ blends various baddies in the Ghost in the Shell franchise into one entity, creating a great adversary for The Major. I did feel like a more intuitive storyline could have made his motivation work better. In the end Pitt’s Kuze was great to watch on screen.
Ghost in the Shell (2017) is not an outright success, and that lies in the underwhelming plot points, which blend many generic scenes, and in turn ignores the complex elements from source material.
Screenwriters Jamie Moss and William Wheeler, condense everything fans loved about the original manga into a revenge tale – losing its more intriguing themes. Technology and sexuality commentary are thrown out for an overdone trope that does nothing in propelling the series forward. This wouldn’t be so bad if these twists were original, but instead Rupert Sanders relies on tried western-action cliche twists.
I enjoyed the adaption, but didn’t love how story was treated.
Ghost in The Shell (2017) action sequences are odd, in the sense that they look beautiful and expensive but lack much needed punch. The PG-13 rating is the obvious reason for this. You never get the sense The Major is any danger. Instead, the fights look totally staged, taking the intensity and brutality out of the character.
Green-screen is also used excessively, making most of Ghost in The Shell feel like it was recorded on a Paramount film lot. Better lighting would have reduced the over produced look, limiting closeups would have avoided the feel of everything being generated on a computer screen. On the other hand, The Major’s invisibility suit is a work of art. Sanders’ makes the ridiculous technology from the manga feel like real pieces of this universe. He should be commended for adapting the unique visuals into live-action, taking chances in this regard.
Ghost in the Shell (2017) succeeds in bringing the beloved franchise into the Hollywood circles. While it’s not perfect, it will provide a good time in the cinema, as it’s filled with visual treats and a sense of badassery for action fans.
This is the best live-action manga adaptation yet (Even though that’s not saying much)
Ghost in the Shell’s soundtrack is also a nice bonus, remixing themes from the original.
Go listen to it now!
Best live-action manga adaptation yet!
Ghost in the Shell (2017) succeeds in bringing the beloved franchise into the Hollywood circles. While not being perfect, it will provide a good time in the cinema. It’s filled with visual treats and a sense of badassery for action fans. This is the best live-action manga adaptation yet – though that’s not saying much.