Today I had an interesting experience. I finally watched the anime film Ghost in the Shell. I had been turned off in the past by the R rated material and it is there but I decided to stomach it today. These iconic anime films can be a bit overwhelming, but I wanted to watch it at least once before seeing the remake tonight. Perhaps I will do a longer review of the anime in a bit but for now I will talk about the new film and how it lives up to the classic.
I should start off this review by saying this live action Ghost in the Shell has familiar images from the anime but the story is completely different. I don’t know if it is similar to the various sequels and series but as far as the original film they have almost nothing in common. That’s not to say this is bad. It’s just different.
Like the original, this Ghost in the Shell focuses on a cyborg named Major who has a human brain but only patchy memories of her past life. She is kind of a super spy who looks into criminals for a shadowy organization.
In the original she is more of a complex character. In this version she is basically a superhero and certainly in that respect Scarlet Johansson is perfect for the role. A lot has been made about them ‘white washing’ the role but because it is more of a simplistic character it didn’t matter that much. I mean any race can be a robot after all?
The visuals and world building are the strongest part of Ghost in the Shell. Director Rupert Sanders does a great job creating a Blade Runnerish world that is bright and dark at the same time. Also the design of the various robots was really neat. For example, a geisha robot featured heavily in the trailers was even cooler in the movie.
For the first 30 minutes of Ghost in the Shell I was honestly struggling. It was pretty boring and I was getting ready to write a style over substance review. However, then it started to pick up for me and it became an entertaining action film.
Fans of the anime will be a little disappointed to see the deeper themes of the original film traded in for a revenge superhero story we’ve seen a lot, but it is executed pretty well, and like I said, Johansson is up to the task when the action is called for. The original has a bittersweet ending and asks complex questions about what it means to be human where this is a ‘get back at the big evil corporate bad guy’ action movie. At times it almost felt like the Black Widow movie we’ve all been waiting for.
None of the side characters like Batou are that memorable here and the Puppet Master is nowhere to be found, which I thought was a strange choice. Also Juliette Binoche is very miscast as the Major’s doctor.
This version is rated PG-13 and the main difference is the women wear a flesh colored suit to conceal their bodies a little bit. There also isn’t the blood like you get in the original. But there is still a lot of action and intense moments and the body suits don’t leave much to the imagination but it is good enough for the MPAA I suppose!
Basically my thoughts leaving Ghost in the Shell is if you want to see a well made superhero movie than it’s decent. If you want something deeper watch the anime. I certainly think the visuals alone are worth seeing if you get the chance.
Smile or Frown- Smile
I’ve realized lately that there is a problem with my grading system. For me giving something a B- or C+ is a mild recommendation (equivalent of a 6 or 6.5/10) but to other people that is a bad grade. So I am still going to do my grade but I am going to let you know whether the movie made me smile or frown (kind of like thumbs up or thumbs down from Siskel and Ebert). Let me know what you think
Overall Grade- C+
What do you think about the original anime Ghost in the Shell and does this remake look appealing to you? Does the white washing bother you? Share with me your thoughts. Thanks!
12 thoughts on “Ghost in the Shell Review”
Interesting Smile or Frown system! Do you plan to add more though? Like: Despise, Frown, Ambivalent, Smile, and Grin.
I figure I will still have my grade to give nuance but just want one base way to say it’s good or its bad but we will see. I will play around with it and see how it goes. I’m glad to get that feedback
My thought was this would be like thumbs up and thumbs down but in this case smile and frown
The trailers made this look like Blade Runner redux and then the reviews are way down at 42% on RT. I’m curious because of the positives you mention, but not enough to see this at the theater. Classic rental. Maybe a double feature with Passengers, another sci-fi I skipped.
Yeah the Blade Runner redux is totally fair. I think you’re right on with rental and I recommend the anime if you havent seen it. Passengers and Ghost in the Shell. Now that’s a combination! LOL 😀
I suppose that is especially a problem when we literally have a Blade Runner sequel coming out this year but still enough here to give it a very mild recommendation
“Like the original, this Ghost in the Shell focuses on a cyborg named Major who has a human brain but only patchy memories of her past life.” – Not like the original. Sorry.
While this movie turns the Major (that’s her rank, not her name. the original’s name is Motoko Kusanagi and the new one’s name I forgot) into a mixture of Robocop with some added false memories from Bladerunner her backstory from the animated version is way (might be different from the manga, I don’t know) weirder:
Motoko’s mother was killed while being pregnant with her and Motoko herself was gravely injured as well – so the only chance to save her was to put her brain into a completely new, artificial body. The huge difference here being that she doesn’t remember being a “full human”, because she never *was*.
Even in a world in which many humans have artificially enhanced brains and cybernetics this makes her really unique. And it’s part of her “problem” and character arc: She doesn’t KNOW whether she is even feeling like a “real” human being, because she never experienced having a human body, so she can’t compare before and after.
Fair enough. I’ve only seen it once and it’s pretty confusing movie so I guess I misunderstood. Still the plot with the Puppet Master and her being a runaway was very different
About the whitewashing:
Yah, that kinda irritated me. Not the actor’s faults really, they did an ok job, but … In THIS particular setting it really stuck out – they simply didn’t fit in mostly. The movie kept rubbing in your face that, yes, this is indeed Japan. Just for the case that you forget they shove those annoying holograms in every scene they can and at least half of them show some traditional Japanese motive, like dancers in costumes, priests, geishas and whatnot.
But all the important people in the movie clearly weren’t Japanese. With the one exception of chief Aramaki almost all Japanese characters are henchmen cannonfodder or silent backdrop extras.
Even Togusa – who in the original gets a little extra attention, because he’s the only un-enhanced human in the group and so strangely enough he’s as much an “outsider” like the fully cybernetic Major. It’s nothing big, but it gets some character time.
Had they changed the setting to the US or Europe it wouldn’t be so bad, I think. But in Tokyo (even if the original’s town was inspired by Hong Kong and they never named it) these westerners stick out like sore thumbs. 😉
One exception: Because of his size and hair colour I always saw Batou as a westerner – maybe he’s French and his name is “Bateaux” (“boats”)?
But the movie version was disappointing nonetheless – his face looks too small. Ron Perlman would have been it. Also because he simply looks more towering and intimidating than this guy. ^^
Thanks for sharing all that. I can see what you mean
Thanks for your clarification. I look forward to seeing it again and picking up on more with that in mind about Major