Movie Review: Ghost in the Shell (2017)
Director: Rupert Sanders
Studio: Paramount Pictures
Released: July 25, 2017
Runtime: 105 minutes
Availability: on 4K Blu-Ray, Blu-ray and DVD
Ghost in the Shell (2017) is a live-action adaptation of the Ghost in the Shell franchise. It is not a direct adaptation of the Ghost in the Shell movie from 1994 or Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex.
Mira Killian is “the Major” a full-body cyborg who works for the Japanese government in “Section 9”. She helps them capture criminals while she tries to figure out her new place in the world since she is no longer a human being.
The “White-Washing” controversy did hurt the movie:
Many fans of both the original movie and the anime series Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex 1st and 2nd Gig were upset when it had been announced that Scarlett Johansson was chosen to play the Major. Many fans were hoping for an Asian actress in the lead role because Motoko Kusanagi is Japanese.
The chose of Scarlett Johansson doesn’t bother me because I knew they needed a big name actress to get non-anime fans in the seats and she is a very popular and actress.
While western fans were up in arms about this the Japanese fans had no problem with it. It didn’t bother me that much because I was more worried about the writing and the story more than whether or not an Asian actress was playing the Major.
It never bothered me since I was more worried about how the story would turn out, so having a white woman play a Japanese full body cyborg wasn’t going to make me boycott the movie, but I was skeptical so I waited until came out on DVD and borrowed it from the library.
Yes, the controversy did hurt the movie as many diehard fans swore off the movie, and since Ghost in the Shell isn’t particularly mainstream non-anime fans might not be interested in the movie unless they really like Scarlett Johansson.
The Visual Effects Are Stunning; They Capture the Look of Ghost in the Shell:
One thing the live-action adaptation did very well is the visuals of this film. They capture the futuristic look of Nihama from the anime very well.
The costumes look good; they were done by WETA, who is known for their work on The Lord of the Rings trilogy so the costume designs closely resemble the source material.
The costumes are very nice, they also used some iconic imagery from the anime and movies to give try to give fans something they would like to see, unfortunately, the casting of Scarlett Johansson made many fans decide not to see the movie unless they wanted to review it.
The visual effects look really good for most of the movie except for one of the scenes near the end of the film is a spider tank that looks hilariously silly because it’s obviously CGI.
I also hate the fact that they’ll do fight scenes at night and it’s obviously to save money. By having fights take place at night or in the dark makes it so you don’t have to have fancy visual effects so they can hide any flaws with the CGI or stunt people taking the place of actors because it’s dark.
Ghost in the Shell (2017) First Trailer:
The Cast is good; Side characters seem to all blend Together:
Scarlett Johansson does a decent job as Major Mira Killian. She’s a good actress but lately it seems she’s been pigeonholed into roles of the stoic, serious female character.
She’s a good actress and her portrayal of the Major is good, but it does feel like she does try a little too hard. She’s not bad in this film, but she’s been stuck in the serious, stoic role for awhile now if she’s playing a female action lead.
"Beat" Takeshi Kitano is great as Chief Daisuke Aramaki. It is hard for me to judge how good his acting is, because he’s speaking Japanese and not English, so I can’t tell if he’s over acting or not, but I do think he’s great.
Pilou Asbæk is good as Batou. I liked his performance although I think Richard Epcar was better because he seemed to understand the character more, but Pilou Asbek was an alright Batou.
The issue I have is that none of the supporting cast stands out at all due to their limited screen time.
The Soundtrack Is Forgettable:
Ghost in the Shell has always had a memorable soundtrack, whether it was Kenji Kawai or Yoko Kano, fans associate the anime with an excellent musical score.
Clint Mansell and Lorne Balfe’s soundtrack isn’t very memorable. It kind of sounds similar to Kenji Kawai’s but it’s just not that good.
A memorable aspect of the franchise has become completely generic.
Will you watch Ghost in the Shell (2017)?
They Completely Missed the Themes of Ghost in the Shell:
The writers for the script Jamie Moss, William Wheeler, and Ehren Kruger completely missed the message of Ghost in the Shell. The major themes of Ghost in the Shell are where is the line between man and machine, just what makes you a human being and do cyborgs have souls?
It’s very obvious when they decide to exclude the Tachikomas, the robot machines Section 9 uses as vehicles. Sure they’re cute and silly in the Stand Alone Complex anime, but they are very relevant to the plot as the machines repeatedly sacrifice their “lives” to protect their human comrades.
The screenwriters dumbed-down the meaning of the story to try to appeal to a wider audience. They failed to capture what made Ghost in the Shell so interesting and appealing and now it just looks like a typical cyberpunk story.
I Like the film, but not enough to Buy it:
I thought as a diehard Ghost in the Shell fan that I would hate this film, most anime adaptations tend to suck and be horrible, especially if you like the source material many of these adaptations.
But Ghost in the Shell was still a decent movie, but the fact that the writers don’t understand the source material hurts the film for fans. It could be so much better if the writers understood the source material, but if you’re just a casual watcher, you’ll enjoy it.
I like the movie, but I don’t love it, it’s not one I’m not rushing out to buy for my blu-ray movie collection. It was fun for me to borrow from the library, but I’m happy I didn’t pay money for it.
Excellent visual effects
Water down themes compared to the original
Controversy kept fans from seeing the film
Final Rating: C-:
As a fan of Ghost in the Shell I found the adaptation was just okay, it wasn’t the worst anime adaptation ever made. It was a decent movie if the writers had actually grasped the philosophies and meaning of the franchise.
Unfortunately, what we got was a stunning visual spectacle without any of the depth, but if it gets newcomers interested in the original movie, the manga or the Stand Alone Complex anime series then it’s a good springboard for getting people interested, but it could have been so much better than what we got.
I’d recommend borrowing it from the library or renting it from Redbox. It does have some aspects that I enjoyed, like he visual effects and some of the acting, but as a Ghost in the Shell fan, it didn’t particularly impress me, but I didn’t feel I wasted my time either.
I don’t think it’s something fans will enjoy as much as newcomers, because the meaning of the story has been simplified too much.
It’s a fun film to watch, but the source material is superior by leaps and bounds.
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