Movie Review: Ghost in the Shell (2017)

gits_trailerThere has been quite a few good science fiction animes to come out from Japan.  Ghost in the Shell was one of them.  Starting out as a manga, the anime adapted the source material and went in its own direction.  Using elements from cyber punk like cyborgs and brain hacking, it  became a instant classic around the world.  It is not surprise that someone would want to do a live action adaptation.  It is also not surprising that, even though it is an international collaboration, a Hollywood actress was chosen to star in it.

Ghost in the Shell is an 2017 science fiction movie starring Scarlett Johanssen,  Takeshi Kitano, Michel Pitt, Pilou Asbaek, Chin Han and Juliette Binoche.  It is directed by Rupert Sanders.  It is based on the Ghost in the Shell multimedia franchise, pulling it’s inspiration from the various version, but with an original story.  It is released by Paramount Pictures.

Set in the not so distant future in a culturally diverse city that could be future Tokyo (on not;  they do not specify), it focuses on a woman given the name Mira Killian (Johannsen).  Involved in a terrorist attack which killed her parents and severely maimed her body, she is saved by a company called Hanka Robotics.  She becomes the first fully augmented human, with a robotic body and a human brain.   Employed by a government agency called Section 9, she obtains the Rank of MAjor and leads a squad of mostly cybernectically enhanced personnel.  When a mysterious hacker called Kuze, starts to target and kill employees of Hanka, the Major and her team-mate, Batou, try to track him down.  But, the Major discovered that she as a connection to Kuze, somewhere in the past that she barely remembers.  As she goes deeper into this mystery, she starts to question her memories, even her own name as she discovers a secret at Hanka that they will to anything to keep hidden.

Ghost in the Shell is a fast paced movie that does not forget it’s anime roots.  In fact, there are several shots and action secrets that were based on scenes from the 1995 movie, from the building of the Major’s body to the fight sequence in the water..  The visual are very futuristic, with the city skyline dominated by holographic signs and billboards.   It looks very futuristic but still very much in the realm of probability.

The storyline is good.  There is nothing too out of the ordinary, given the source material.  There are a lot of movies with heroes with a mysterious past with benefactors that are hiding secrets.  The Major is pretty somber but as she questions her past, more of her emotions show.  The rest of Section 9 is used sparingly, save for Batou who acts like he did in the original anime.  They even show how he got his cybernetic eyes.

Now, the major complaint about the movie is the “white washing” of the Major.  They could have easily cast an Japanese woman I the role, but with Hollywood, they would like a marque actress to star in such a project.  ScarJo is pretty popular right now and has international recognition.  The creator of the manga even says he didn’t mind th casting (but that could be the money talking.).  The movie does explain her name change and it will be up to each viewer to decide if they accept it.  But, there is no reason to thing that a future Japan could be more heterogeneous place.  Western films like Blade Runner had a future America where Japanese was spoken widely.  Putting aside the guilt of past colonial aspirations, what is the difference from that setting to the one here, if it is set in future Japan?  Anyone familiar with Ghost in the Shell knows that each iteration is different for each other.  The manga is different from the film.  The film is different from the T.V series.  Even Arise differed from Stand Alone Complex.  This is just a different version of the Ghost in the Shell story.

Ghost in the Shell is not perfect, but it is a decent science fiction movie.  If one can get past comparing it to the anime, it is an entertaining movie.  Scarlett Johannsem is a decent actress, but one cannot argue that she looks good in tight outfits, which she wears plenty in this film.  The call out to the original are well done and Aramaki is pretty badass for an old guy.

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Ghost in the Shell opened 31 March 2017.  It is rated 14-A in Ontario.