Ghost in the Shell: Hollywood Adaptation of Legendary Manga Does Not Compute
Michael PittPilou Asbæk...
In 1 Cinema
Ghost in the Shell, the latest re-imagination of the popular Japanese manga series of the same name and the very first live-action adaptation of the popular 1995 anime directed by Mamoru Oshii, comes in the form of a visually enticing but not necessarily engaging viewing experience.
Set sometime in the not-so-distant future, the story follows Mira ‘The Major’ Killian (Johansson); a young woman who, after suffering a mysterious near-drowning incident, finds herself awakening to discover that her brain has been transplanted into a fully functional cybernetic body. Built by Dr. Ouelet (Binoche) – the compassionate scientist working for Hanka Robotics – Mira, who now only goes by ‘The Major’, is the first of her kind and is soon recruited to work for Section 9; an organisation run by Chief Aramaki (Kitano), that dedicates its time targeting hackers and other cyberterrorists that pose as a threat to the bustling Japanese metropolis.
Things take a turn when The Major and her partner Batou (Asbaek) are given the task of tracking down a ruthless and puzzling hacker named Kuze (Pitt) who has been spending his time pursuing and killing off Hanka Robotics’ top scientists. During her pursuit however, The Major begins to experience strange memory flashbacks which soon lead her to believe that Hanka Robotics was not entirely honest with her and ] sets out on her own to find out the truth about who she was before her life as a robot.
Helmed by Snow White and Huntsman’s Rupert Sanders, Ghost in the Shell’s visual effects and overall design elements are cutting-edge, clever and pretty darn sweet. However, in terms of story, there’s not much there with the hollow script failing to carrying over any real depth or meaning from its much-loved and praised source material. Themes such as identity, humanity and estrangement are played with throughout the minutes with conversations about the standards of beauty and the measures taken to achieve it, also being brought to the table.
However, as rich and thought-provoking as this might all sound, there is very little to the narrative – and its railed execution – to deliver the these subjects whilst the ‘whitewashing’ controversy behind the casting of Johansson as Motoko Kusanagi doesn’t really help in providing a proper assessment to her performance. However, it is safe to say that although seemingly committed to the role, she fails to provide the necessary depth and warmth to guide her character on her journey.
Visually speaking, Ghost in the Shell is a stunner with the movie successfully creating a bustling – and at the same time seemingly empty – world filled with bright neon lights, glimmering skyscrapers and holographic advertisements that stand over the city’s landscape. The action-scenes are also relatively effective, but as pretty as it may all seem on the outside, there is very little going on the inside to stir us into thinking that Ghost in the Shell is anything else but another Hollywood whitewashing disappointment.