Ghost in the Shell (2017)
Live-action adaptation of Masamune Shirow's classic cyberpunk anime film of the same name, the plot is centered around Public Section 9, a covert unit of specialists led by Major Motoko Kusanagi, a cyborg and master hacker.
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It's not every day that I can have my Scarlet fix plus an amazing movie at the same time. Such a sci-fi gem with both great action and acting!
Clearly, the design team are talented and this film is indeed a visual spectacle, but the director clearly doesn't understand why the anime was special. This barely touches on the core themes of the original, it is hollow, beautiful, but hollow.
Having not being familiar with the original source material, their were little to no expectations about the film. Overall Ghost in the Shell feels quite bland, generic and confusing at times. The visuals are nice to look at, due to its big budget but as a film, nothing caught of interest. The film seemed to drag on to a point where one was losing focus and was zoning out of the picture. Reminiscent of Ex-Machine, Ghost of the Shell isn't nearly as intriguing or engaging. This film feels very serious and wasn't fun at all, with little to no light hearted moments. One can see as to why this film flopped at the box office.
If I were to summarize my opinion of this movie to a hypothetical audience, I'd tell them that Ghost in the Shell essentially has 3 acts: a promising start, a flat middle act, and then a somewhat redemptive final act. If you've read any other reviews for this film, you know that the critics would flip flop what I said about the second and third acts. And critics are idiots, so that's why I'm here.*Before I go any further, I need to put in this sidenote. I won't be addressing the controversy of this film about whitewashing for 3 reasons. 1) It's a claim made my idiots that made up their minds about the film well before it ever reached theaters. B) It's actually a really easy claim to refute and prove wrong. And 4) I'm simply here to discuss the merits of this film and give my recommendation on whether you should watch it or not or hopefully provide a different way of seeing the movie if you already watched it.* As I said from the beginning, this movie has a strong start. There's a bit of reading at the beginning to introduce cybernetics-basically telling you to be prepared for cyborgs; after that, however, it jumps right into this futuristic world without trying to explain things too much. It wants the audience to accept what's happening and learn as the movie goes along. It's a smart approach that really elevates this film. What obviously also stands out are the visuals. But it's not just that you get a shot of the futuristic Japan and all the digital billboards and upgraded technologies that gives this movie its impressive visuals, it's the fact that they make sense. When Section 9 (all you really need to know is that Scarlett Johansson is a really powerful cyborg with a human brain and she's working for a company that built her, and her and her coworkers are part of Section 9) analyzes a crime scene using virtual red laser technology, it feels like an approach that is both convenient and useful-something that isn't always seen by the overuse of holograms in other films. Throughout the movie, ScarJo experiences what are called glitches when going through the real world because it's like repressed memories from her life as a human coming to the forefront. I'll discuss the merits of the plot later, but I added it in here because the glitches are a clever way to have shots of the real world and incorporate visuals directly into it, and they are one of the more intriguing mysteries of the film. The biggest issue of Ghost in the Shell is how one-note it gets. The digitalness of everything is really cool at first, but it loses a little appeal after awhile. What ends up being criminal in this film is the score and background noise. It's the same droning sound the entire time, and it takes its toll on you. And in the middle is where a lot of exposition is given with a "twist" as to whom the actual villain is. The thing about it is that lots of the characters are essentially cyborgs, so there isn't a whole lot of inflection in their voices. When you pair cyborg voices with the annoying score, it creates a muddled middle where you should paying the most attention but instead are at your most distracted. The third act is able to pick itself back up a bit. I'll talk about movie comparisons later, but this is really where the movie tries to find its most humanity and philosophy. Although it doesn't stand up to the deep thinking of other films, it's still more refreshing from all the exposition and subpar story development from the middle act. Oh, and don't expect the most tension or action from the climax; the action is there, but it's just a by-the-numbers climax scene. Inevitably, this film is going to draw comparisons to Blade Runner-emphasis is on the humanity behind the cyborgs and not the action itself. The difference is that while Blade Runner cleverly toys with morality and what it means to be human; Ghost in the Shell feels more like an empty shell than anything else. The ideas are presented, but it gets lost through the high budget effects. There's nothing wrong with having a large budget, but if characters aren't properly developed, it nulls any meaning. This issue is more apparent in this film due to the poor writing. In particular, a couple one-liners are thrown around that are groan worthy ("I wasn't built to dance!"). Overall, the ScarJo main character Major is fine, and I have no issue with her human's background story that is gradually revealed; my problem comes with both the supposed and actual villain. Neither of these characters are well-written, and they both have motivations and arcs anybody who has seen a movie can guess right from the start. The worst offense Ghost in the Shell makes is one that will probably be overlooked by most. It succeeds on many levels of creating an interesting world; however, this world is populated by dull characters. There isn't a distinction made on why we should pay attention to who is a cyborg, who has cybernetics, and who is purely human. It doesn't really matter in the grand scheme of things, so why should we care? And the answer is that we don't really care, and we won't be very compelled to hold any discussion of this film after watching it. This movie isn't a bad watch-in fact I kinda liked it-but there are so many obvious mistakes that could've easily been fixed that makes me upset by the final product. Oh, and to end on a properly irrelevant matter, if you're like me (which you most likely aren't), then you would've noticed that the Asian guy from The Dark Knight that's all like "As I said, I'm good with numbers" makes an appearance in this film.