Visually effusive, with the look and feel of a futuristic video game, the storyline of Ghost in the Shell is an all too familiar one. Based on the Japanese manga of the same name by Masamune Shirow, Rupert Sanders (Snow White and the Huntsman) directs from a screenplay by Jamie Moss (Street Kings) and William Wheeler (Queen of Katwe).
Major (Scarlett Johnsson) has been in a terrible accident and only her brain has been saved. Now the cutting edge team of scientists, including Dr Ouelet (Juliette Binoche) at Hanka Robotics have gone a step further than they ever have become to meld her with artificial intelligence to create the ultimate soldier. In the future of Ghost in the Shell, lawbreakers can not only get into your bank account, they can access your memories and control your behaviour, so it is that policing requires a new kind of law enforcement. The elite Section 9 anti-terrorism squad is comprised of some of the world’s most technologically enhanced people, including Major. In time though, she will learn that her real back-story is significantly different than the one she has been told.
Since the publication of Shirow’s original Japanese anime in 1989, Ghost in the Shell has inspired a devoted worldwide following, including influential filmmakers like Steven Spielberg, James Cameron and the Wachowskis. Before this movie came along, the franchise already included two landmark anime feature films and two television series, as well as novels, video and mobile games. It was 2008 when Spielberg and DreamWorks acquired the rights to make the first live-action version and it has taken this long to bring to the screen.
From the moment the plot kicked off I basically knew where it was headed and that certainly took the gloss off. Let’s put it this way – none of the actors appeared stretched as their characters didn’t generate any surprises. By now stories about mankind integrating with machines and gaining strength as a result are all too commonplace. So too action pieces involving extreme violence and explosions.
What is left is the look of a movie such as this and the imagery – in large measure – is striking, a cut above most, a visual extravaganza if you will. One thing I couldn’t understand was why, in such a created environment, the mode of ground transport was so basic – old cars on road, rather than above ground pods, for example. Nostalgia may be alive and well, but regardless of what may have been in the original animation, I saw that as a misstep that could so easily have been fixed. Overall though, if special effects and digital effects move you, in that regard Ghost in the Shell is something that has been lovingly crafted. Rated M, it scores a 6½ out of 10.
Director: Rupert Sanders
Cast: Scarlett Johansson, Michael Pitt, Rila Fukushima
Release Date: 30 March 2017
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David Edwards is the editor of The Blurb and a contributor on film and television