“Ghost in the Shell” is directed by Rupert Sanders who also directed 2012’s “Snow White and the Huntsman” and it stars Scarlett Johanson as a character who has a human mind, but she also has an artificial body. Throughout, this character we are introduced to, who goes by the name of Major, is tasked with stopping the world’s most dangerous criminals while at the same time, she’s trying to confirm the mystery of her true identity.
For the record, this movie is not original. This is based on a manga of the same name which began back in 1989, which later had multiple anime flicks, video games, and TV shows. The first “Ghost in the Shell” movie came out in 1995 and now it is considered to be one of the greatest anime films of all time. People praise it for how it is presented visually and having watched the movie, I can totally see why. If you ask me, I don’t watch much anime, so I can’t judge whether or not this belongs with the greats. I have watched this movie in the past and enjoyed it, but I’m just getting this out. That’s not all I’ll say about this, and this will be important later in the review.
Let’s talk about the main character of Major Motoko Kusanagi. As far as character traits go, she was very similar to the character I witnessed in the 1995 movie, which is a good thing and a bad thing. I do respect this movie for relying heavily on its source material and utilizing it throughout the runtime. She has a similar personality and she looks similar (for the most part) to the character in the 1995 version.
Now, let’s get into two topics meshed together. Asia and… CONTROVERSY! What does that mean? We’re gonna be talking about North Korea. Haha, just kidding, we’re gonna be talking about Japan. What about Japan? The atomic bomb droppings at the end of World War II. Haha, just kidding again, although we are bringing Japan into this. When the “Ghost in the Shell” franchise began, it all started in Japan, so naturally, just about everything that was being made which happened to be related to the franchise is considered a Japanese product. This movie however was made as a Hollywood product from Paramount and DreamWorks. The movie also has Scarlett Johanson playing the main character, which a lot of audiences were mad about because it’s an example of whitewashing, or what is referred to as taking a character of a certain race that isn’t white and having a white person fill in the shoes of the role. This has been done in “Aloha,” with a main character named Allison Ng played by Emma Stone, in “Doctor Strange” with the Ancient One played by Tilda Swinton, and in “Gods of Egypt” with just about every character in the movie. Months ago I was surfing the web, and I came across something that said the Japanese audiences who were into this movie were shocked about the outrage. As I’m writing this review, I came across an article from The Hollywood Reporter and it features a quote from a mega manga fan named Tetsuya Kataoka. Tetsuya said “If you want a Japanese cast, then a Japanese company should make the film in Japan,” and someone else said that having a white person, while not as great as having a Japanese person, is better than having a Chinese person. As far as that statement goes, I disagree because Japanese and Chinese people somewhat look the same, but white people don’t look as similar to those two races. Granted Chinese people and Japanese people have slight differences from each other, but they’re more similar to each other than white people are to either of them. Now as far as casting anyone that is a different race than what would be expected for a certain character, is a con for me before going into a movie and I don’t care if it involves whitewashing or not. Although I will say, in general, Johanson does a fine job as Major, and if there were any white people to cast as this character, Johanson, looking back, would definitely had been a good pick.
Now I know what some of you might be thinking, “Jack, what the hell is wrong with you? Is your brain wired incorrectly? You’re only saying this because you think Scarlett is hot!” To answer that possible thought, I will say, yes, she is hot. I even point that out, maybe a little more times than necessary during my countdown of my 10 favorite Marvel Cinematic Universe films (link down below if you want to check it out). However, that’s not necessarily why I approve of this casting choice. I approve of this casting choice because of how Scarlett played the character, it made me feel like I was watching someone who was actually Japanese, it was definitely artificial, but in some ways, I bought it.
I’m not really gonna talk much about the other characters but I’ll go over some details about them. A number of these characters are also part of the source material and the casting along with the costume design is rather faithful to the franchise, and yes, there are Japanese people in this movie!
I just recently mentioned that Japanese and Chinese folks are similar to each other in many ways. You know something else? “Ghost in the Shell” from 1995 is vastly similar to “Ghost in the Shell” from 2017. This is essentially a live-action remake of the 1995 version only with a few tweaks. So in a way, it’s almost similar to what Disney is doing with a lot of their movies like “The Jungle Book” and “Cinderella.” There’s also a cliche that older material is superior to recreations of the older material, and in the case of “Ghost in the Shell,” that cliche applies here. This, to me, was especially noticeable during the action sequences, which were all eye candy, but they also looked like something I’ve witnessed before.
Basically the action sequences shown throughout the picture all resemble an action sequence we’ve gotten in the 1995 movie. I will say, the first action sequence, the one where we see Major shattering the window of a building, may be better than the sequence it resembles. The one on the right image above wasn’t as good as its counterpart which I have in mind however. The climatic battle in this movie, was somewhat equal to the climactic battle in the original, although it might lose points for that now that I think about it, there’s no originality brought to the table here. I know this is a remake, but I think some things a remake should do are either take a spin on something that could pay off, or improve flaws or imperfections that one would have with the original.
One last positive I will give is the movie’s visual effects, this feels futuristic, pretty, and glossy. The city in “Ghost in the Shell” somewhat feels like a glossier version of the city you’d see in “The Fifth Element.” Then again you can take “Star Wars Episode II” and say Coruscant, based on one scene from that movie, you’d probably know it if you watched the movie, is a glossier version of the city you’d see in “The Fifth Element,” only in that movie it was more of a rip off than anything else! Although, this does make me think of a problem that I’m hearing a lot from people concerning the DCEU films, which is that while they may have great effects and sequences, the story and characters don’t really make up for it. I thought similarly about “Ghost in the Shell,” while I did appreciate the movie visually, I couldn’t appreciate it in a lot of other ways. I tried to like Scarett Jo’s interpretation of the main character, and I liked it various ways, but I don’t think it’ll be remembered as much as what we’ve seen before her interpretation. I didn’t really find the supporting characters interesting, I was just waiting for another cool action sequence because that was the only part of the movie I felt worked so far aside from looking at visuals in general.
In the end, “Ghost of the Shell,” while visually appealing, really could have been improved on a number of other levels. The movie bored me, I may have almost fallen asleep at times, and I wouldn’t say it was worth the $30 I paid for it at the store. I will say this, I would recommend this as a test movie. What do I mean? If you purchase a new media player, like a 4K player or Blu-Ray player, or perhaps a new TV, buy this movie in a high-resolution format and just stare at the TV in awe, because this is like looking at a statue that’s incredibly clean and very well-kept, but at the same time, it’s extremely obscure and not many people would seem to know or care about what they’re looking at. I’m gonna give “Ghost in the Shell,” the live-action remake, a 4/10. This movie, to me, reminded me of when I went to see “Warcraft,” it’s eye candy, but the rest of the movie leaves a bit to be desired. One plus I will add though, out of a lot of bad movies I’ve seen, this isn’t one of those bad ones where I literally raged throughout the entire thing. For the record, I even do that during good movies like “Spider-Man: Homecoming” and “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2.”
Thanks for reading this review, I would like to let everyone know that this weekend I will be at a convention called Terrificon. This is taking place at the convention center located inside Mohegan Sun casino in Uncasville, CT. There’s gonna be some celebrity guests there including some guests from TV’s “Batman,” Burt Ward (Robin) and Lee Merriweather (Catwoman), other guests include folks such as Sean Gunn (Gilmore Girls, Guardians of the Galaxy), Chris Sullivan (This is Us, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2), and Shannon Purser (Stranger Things, Riverdale). There will also be a focus on comics, a celebration of Jack Kirby’s birthday, and a tribute to the one, the only, Adam West. Or is it Adam We? If you get that reference tell me what it’s from down below, I’ll tell you whether or not it’s right, and if you’re right, I command you to pat yourself on the back, unless your hands and arms don’t work. If you see me at the convention and recognize me, don’t hesitate to say hi, I will remember to bring blue sunglasses to make myself look more distinguishable. I’ll be there all three days, August 18-20, but I’ll be at the convention center for Friday and Saturday, just a warning. I can’t wait, it’s gonna be epic! As far as other reviews go, I’m planning on seeing “The Glass Castle” sometime soon and we’ll see what else happens in the near future. Stay tuned for more reviews, and I’ll ask you, what do you think about the “Ghost in the Shell” franchise? What is your favorite edition of the manga? What is your favorite of the movie released in the franchise? What are your thoughts on the video games and the TV shows? Let me know all that down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!