Ghost in the Shell is directed by Rupert Sanders and based on the Japanese anime from 1995. The anime is held in high esteem in the eyes of its fans. The live-action Hollywood reboot stars Scarlett Johansson as the lead character Major, Takeshi Kitano as the head of Majors special forces unit Aramaki, and Michael Pitt as the villain Kuzo. It tells the story of a woman who, in the futuristic Japan, has apparently died in a tragic manner with only her brain surviving which was then transferred into a robotic body that was meant to be used to hunt down terrorists. While she is part of this special forces group, she is also suffering from “glitches” in her system causing her to question her past and what she has been told happened to her. As a preface to my opinions on this film, it is important to know that I have never seen the anime version from 1995. This film did peak my interest in seeing the film though which is always a good thing if your remake can bring attention to the source material.
This film had some of the best effects I have seen in some time. I was able to see it in 3D IMAX and, with only the exception of a few small effects regarding Johansson and her robot body, everything meshed with the world beautifully. The futuristic Japan that was built with its giant 3D advertisements truly looked like a city of tomorrow. The film is also shot extremely well, the cinematography and direction of the film makes for gorgeous panoramic shots of the city and the action taking place. This film did not partake in the current plague of shaky camera action. It instead invested in well-choreographed fight scenes with very well done stunts. Johansson owned every scene she was in, including the action scenes. The film also had some very cool action set pieces involving heavy machinery. The villain of Kuze was a decently fleshed out character who was somewhat relatable. The changes they made to adjust his speech pattern and the sound of his voice was a great character addition and just sounded so awesome. Takeshi Kitano playing the head of Majors special forces group was great and helped to bring a very serious tone to the film. He is also the main focus of my favorite shot in the film that is one of my personal favorites I have seen so far, this year. While the film had great CGI effects it is important to point out it did not solely use CGI. The film also had great make-up and prosthetics, it also created some practical futuristic robots. It was a nice touch to see them not have to give up on practical elements even though they had to use so much CGI in the film.
While this film had had good action and was filmed very well it was just missing one very important thing, an interesting story with interesting characters. While I enjoyed Major and Kuze neither were fleshed out as much as they needed to be to make the action more suspenseful. All of the characters felt very surface level and that really hurt the serious life threatening atmosphere that was supposed to be present. The story was also a rather cut and dry sci-fi film that had a few interesting turns but nothing that was particularly shocking. It also wanted to have some extremely deep message and make some profound statement but instead, it felt rather empty in the end. It acted like it had its own “tears in rain” moment like Blade Runner but it was lacking the philosophical question present in that movie.
Ghost in the Shell was full of awesome effects, good action, and great cinematography but in all that it lost the essence of what could have been a great story. It had underdeveloped characters, which caused a lack of suspense in action scenes.
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