I grew up on Mangas rather than Comic books, and “Ghost in the Shell” by Shirow Masamune has always been a property that I was aware of but never actually read or saw. I was excited when the movie was announced because it was another way for me to get into the story. With Rupert Sanders (Snow White and the Huntsman) at the helm, I expected odd but beautiful imagery. As for the cast the only ones that I knew going in were Scarlett Johansson (Jojo Rabbit, The Jungle Book), Juliette Binoche (The 33), Takeshi Kitano, and Pilou Asbaek (Game of Thrones).
Premise: In the near future, Major Mira Killian is the first of her kind: A human saved from a terrible crash, who is cyber-enhanced to be a perfect soldier devoted to stopping the world’s most dangerous criminals.
Review: One of the reasons why I did not rush to read the Manga or see the anime movies, was that I was always under the impression that it was a smart property. The kind that is thought-provoking with a little sex appeal – like as most Mangas do – thrown in. Ghost in the Shell was talked about as being great by my hormone-fulled friends who just lusted after the character, my Otaku friends, as well as my philosophizing friends.
By that measure alone, I could infer that it was a sophisticated manga that’s entertaining on multiple levels to a broad spectrum of people. The trailers looked amazing, refined, and represented my assumptions about the source materiel well. However this movie shocked me because with only second-hand knowledge about this I.P., through family and friends talking about this for years, I knew something was wrong – and I’m not talking about the obvious here.
The lack of sophistication of the story was impressive. It’s almost false advertising at this point. If second-hand knowledge of an intellectual property can be considered as watered down, me recognizing that this was poorly developed without first-hand knowledge of the manga says enough. The weak little mystery they had us sit through is barely worth an episode of a paint by numbers procedural TV-Show, at least it was a serviceable one.
I am well aware of the main controversy – white-washing – surrounding this movie, and I still remember how it felt when I saw it in the theaters. I was stunned and uncomfortable to realize that she was the “Ghost” of an Asian woman – with the Japanese mother and everything – before becoming a cybor supersoldier. It was adding insult to injury. Business-wise an argument could be made for casting a well known actrice, who happens to be white, in the role. Johansson is a pretty good fit in that sense, but why is Kuze (Michael Pitt) white as well? They could’ve accommodated the story by making this futuristic city more diverse, thus make it so that the Major was originally an expat. I’m not going to expand on that because it’s been said and three years later progress have been made, let’s keep it up.
The visuals is one of the highlight of this movie, they are great, and sadly I think that’s what they focused on the most. It now reminds me of how Bloodshot felt, in this case the shell was more important than the rest. They were good performances with this cast but not enough to forget how the rest fell kind of short.
Ghost in the Shell seems to be a pretty package with little depth that still manages not to be too average.