Movie Review: Ghost in the Shell
In a world of cyber and robotic human enhancements, Major (Scarlet Johansson) is the first of her kind. After her human body suffered a terrible accident, her brain (still intact) was transplanted in an incredibly advanced, robotic body (or shell). While her spirit (or ghost) is still in there, Major has no recollection of her past before her brain was transplanted into the robotic shell. This includes the terrible accident so she must take everyone else's word for what happened to her. With her new, enhanced body, Major is placed in a special unit of operatives that consists of a friend named Batou (Pilou Asbaek) and led by Aramaki (Takeshi Kitano). This unit battles enhanced and Major is their prized asset. However, a new threat has surfaced named Kuze (Michael Pitt). Kuze is a formidable adversary for the unit and challenges everything that Major has ever been told about her and her past.
Villain's Motivations (-4pts)
Batou & Aramaki (+3pts)
Scarlet Johansson (-2pts)
Pro - Action (+10pts)
The action in this movie was a lot of fun. It looked great visually and uses the enhanced body effectively. There are some shots and action sequences that I've not seen before simply because they wouldn't make any sense in most other movies. There are some great gun shootouts (though a lot of villains had storm trooper syndrome when it came to aiming). This movie has its weaknesses but the action was not one of them. It was well choreographed and used the "technology" effectively. The movie even does a good job at balancing how much action to put in there. There was enough that it felt like a fun action movie but didn't have so much that it felt oversaturated. The action in Ghost in the Shell will not disappoint.
Con - Major (-5pts)
Unfortunately the main character was one of the films weaknesses. Do not get me wrong, she was cool and fun to watch in action based environments, but when the movie tries to focus and rely on her story, the movie becomes somewhat boring because the audience was not properly invested. The problem here was that her body was robotic so was not supposed to convey emotion. She also had no memory of anything that happened before her transplant and, as a result, she was not relatable and was not emotionally invested in anything that was happening during the film's rising action. I think having the movie start with a few scenes from her life before the transplant. Would this have ruined the "plot twist"? Sure, but that twist was so obvious that I saw it coming before seeing the movie, and I never saw the anime either.
Pro - Technology (+6pts)
I really liked the use of futuristic technology in Ghost in the Shell. I thought the movie presented a compelling version of what the world could be like in the future while making a statement on how much we rely on technology. While the movie shows plenty examples of the benefits that come with human-robotic integration (strength, vision, communication, etc.) the movie also presents a fascinating example of one of the bad things that came come from this technology. In a world, such as the one presented in this movie, humanity's dependence on technology has allowed hacking to evolve to the point where people can be hacked. Your thoughts and memories are vulnerable to those who wish to exploit it. This is a fascinating concept and I only wish that this movie explored that concept with more focus.
Con - Villain's Motivations (-4pts)
The villain of this movie was pretty underdeveloped. Now I do not need to know everything about a villain's childhood but I think it is important to give a villain proper character development. This is especially true when your protagonist is an emotionless cyborg. There seemed to be no justifiable reason for why the antagonist did some of the things that he did. Particularly how people were "selected" to be part of the program. This program would have no shortage of volunteers so the method of selection, that the villain used, seemed pointless and random. This made the villain come across as foolish and uninteresting.
Pro - Batou and Aramaki (+3pts)
This was an unexpected surprise for me, but I really enjoyed the dynamic that Major, Batou and Aramaki had with each other. These characters formed the special unit that Major worked for and, while there were more characters in the unit, these were the only notable or memorable ones. This trio had a family dynamic that was entertaining to watch. I totally got that any of them would die trying to save the others. This element of the story worked very well and I only wish I got to see more of it in the film.
Con - Scarlet Johansson (-2pts)
After seeing the movie, I can safely say that Scarlet Johansson should not have been cast in this role. I get the premise, Scarlet Johansson's body is a robot so she does not have to look like the people from that geographical location. I also get that this movie takes place in the distant future where a global racial mix is implied. Both of these are valid points but I did not thlink that Scarlet Johansson brought anything special to the role. Was that her fault? No, the character does not give much room for creativit, but my problem is that this character could have literally been played by anyone. The character allows for any ethnicity in the actress portraying Major which means that this movie presented a perfect opportunity for an up and coming, non-white actress. Instead, the studio chose to go with a big name to hopefully draw more people into seeing this movie. I think this decision had the opposite effect because I think a lot of people were turned off by this casting. Oh and let's be honest, an up and coming actress would have been a lot cheaper than Scarlet Johansson. The only reason I gave this point so few points was because I do not think this hurts the story itself.
Rating: B- (83pts)
I think Ghost in the Shell was a good movie, but it could have been a lot better. The action was great, the visuals were great, and the character dynamic between the unit was fin to watch. Unfortunately, this movie falls apart with its protagonist and antagonist. I do not think either for the character development they needed which resulted in me not being invested in their fates. I also think that Scarlet Johansson, through no fault of her own, was a poor casting choice for Major. I think my favorite part of this movie would have to be it's interpretation on humanity and our dependence on new technology as well as presenting a compelling and dangerous result of that dependence. The movie just, unfortunatel, does not focus on this element of the story.
Overall I think this movie has almost as much negative as it does positive. I think it is an entertaining enough movie that a lot of people will end up liking, but I would not recommend rushing out to the theaters to see it.