Possible spoilers ahead!
Somewhere in Asia, sometime in the future. Or at least I think it’s the future somewhere in Asia, but I’m not 100% sure. Regardless, after a terrorist attack leaves her at death’s door, a young woman (Scarlett Johansson) awakens to discover that her brain has been transplanted into a state-of-the-art sexy as hell cyborg body.
The doctor responsible for saving her life is Dr. Ouélet (Juliette Binoche), a scientist working for Hanka Robotics. Soon, the young woman takes on the name of Mira “The Major” Killian, and she’s recruited to serve in the elite Section 9, led by Chief Aramaki (Takeshi Kitano).
Everything is going well, until “The Major” and her partner Batou (Pilou Asbæk), begin hunting down a mysterious terrorist known as Kuze (Michael Pitt). For unknown reasons, Kuze is killing senior Hanka Robotics scientists. and Dr. Ouélet is next on the list. But as “The Major” chases down Kuze, she begins experiencing “glitches” that may or may not be flashes of memories from her previous life.
I saw the original “Ghost in the Shell” anime when I was a teenager, but do I remember much about it? Of course not, but I do remember the basics of the story. But you could say I went into the “Ghost in the Shell” live action movie with an open mind.
However, after the casting controversy and what the critics said when the movie came out, my expectations were rather low. But maybe that’s why I didn’t completely hate this movie.
Don’t misunderstand me, “Ghost in the Shell” has a ton of problems for such a short movie. But the one thing I can’t deny is that “Ghost in the Shell” has some of the best visuals I’ve seen in an action movie. The city these character inhabit pops out of the screen, and some of the action sequences are downright impressive.
The problem for “Ghost in the Shell” is that everything else, just plain sucks.
The screenplay by writers Ehren Kruger, Jamie Moss and William Wheeler streamlines the source material so much, that it loses the heart of the original. What we’re left with looks and feels like “Ghost in the Shell” lite.
The dialogue seemed dumbed down to me, and the only relationship that had any substance was the one between “The Major” and Batou. He was the only character who cared for ScarJo and he was the only one who treated her like a person.
Now we get to the casing controversy…
Although “Ghost in the Shell” keeps the futuristic Asian setting of the original film, the filmmakers decided to cast white actors for most of the leading roles. “Ghost in the Shell” does attempt to explain why “The Major” looks like Scarlett Johansson, but the explanation offered makes you wonder, again, why they didn’t just hire an Asian actress instead.
I can’t put all the blame on Scarlett Johansson, she did what she could with what was given. And she once again proves she’s a true action star with some incredible battle sequences.
When it comes down to it, “Ghost in the Shell” struggles to build its sci-fi setting and its characters. There’s a good movie in here somewhere, you see glimpses throughout the film.
The story could have been better, the characters could have been fleshed out more, and of course an Asian actress would have helped things immensely. But the fact remains that the visuals are simply stunning, and some of the action sequences are breath-taking.
“Ghost in the Shell” final score: C