GHOST IN THE SHELL

PrintE-mail Written by Iain Robertson

Masamune Shirow’s groundbreaking Ghost In The Shell has been thrilling fans for the best part of 30 years. Besides the original manga and the 1995 anime, there’s enough sequels, TV series, video games and spin-off books to all but assure Hollywood would eventually sit up and take notice.

 

And notice they eventually have taken. Rather than opting for a straightforward adaptation, director Rupert Sanders (Snow White And The Huntsman) and co. have instead developed an original story, inspired by the series. Whilst that has the advantage of allowing the story to be tailored towards a wider audience (read: dumbed down), it’s a pity that the story they’ve gone with couldn’t have been a tad more original.

 

After being badly injured in a terrorist attack, a young woman, Mira Killian wakes up in an artificial body, looking the spitting image of Scarlett Johansson – probably not a bad deal – having had her consciousness transferred into an artificial body. In Ghost In The Shell’s world, robots are common, as is augmenting oneself with technology. Killian is the first to successfully have her consciousness (or ghost) transferred into an artificial body though.

 

Skip to a year later, and Killian, now known as the Major, is a super-soldier, working for Section 9, the anti-terrorist bureau. Following an attack (not to mention a cool set piece) early in the film, she finds herself hunting for a cyber-terrorist known only Kuze.

 

Needless to say, Kuze’s motives are mysteriously linked to the Major’s past (most of which she doesn’t remember), as are the hallucinations she occasionally experiences – dismissed as glitches by the doctor (Julia Ormond) who created her.

 

Whilst the film may not be overly original, it’s nonetheless entertaining. As widely noted at the time, Johansson’s casting was controversial, with many believing that the role should have gone to an Asian actress. Whilst we’re probably not best placed to comment on the controversy, she’s is by far the film’s greatest asset. As assorted MCU outings and Lucy have proved, she is highly adept at kick-ass action, and she proves so again here (seriously Marvel, give this woman a Black Widow solo movie now). She’s ably supported by a decent cast, including Pilou Asbæk (Euron Greyjoy in Game Of Thrones), Japanese superstar “Beat” Takeshi, and a blink-and-you’ll-miss-him Michael Wincott.

 

The whole thing looks gorgeous. The unnamed Asian city – modelled on Hong Kong – where the film takes place comes across as a less gloomy Blade Runner (there’s that unoriginality again) but with more holograms, and everything from robot geishas to the original’s spider tanks, looks beautiful.

 

Considering the original manga wasn’t afraid to over-sexualise its characters (something only Japanese comics are guilty of, obviously) the film’s oddly sexless. It’s got a not-unattractive cast, including one of Hollywood’s most beautiful actresses performing in a skin-tight, nude-coloured costume, so it’s somewhat surprising that the whole thing’s about as sexy as an episode of Bargain Hunt. It wouldn’t hurt them to lighten up a bit either. Even Blade Runner (an obvious inspiration) had a couple of jokes.

 

All the film’s flaws would be ok if it dug properly into the interesting philosophical questions raised by the source material. For a film where most characters are augmented by technology, there’s a fascinating discussion to be had about the relationship between ourselves and AI, and what makes us human. Unfortunately, the film’s more interested in throwing another action scene or cool CGI sequence at us.

 

Ghost In The Shell is by no means bad. It’s a fun, beautiful-looking sci-fi actioner with Johansson on top form. But with a more original script and a bit more depth, it could just have been so much more. Fun, but a missed opportunity. Those spider tanks really are cool though.

 

Special features: 3 featurettes: Hard-wired humanity: making Ghost In The Shell / Section 9: Cyber defenders / Man & machine: The ghost philosophy

 

GHOST IN THE SHELL / CERT: 12 / DIRECTOR: RUPERT SANDERS / SCREENPLAY: JAMIE MOSS, WILLIAM WHEELER, EHREN KRUGER / STARRING: SCARLETT JOHANSSON, MICHAEL CARMEN PITT, JULIETTE BINOCHE / RELEASE DATE: 7TH AUGUST




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