I finally got around to watching the new Ghost in The Shell the other night, and wow has the internet given this movie a rough time. I really enjoyed the movie and would probably consider it my favorite live-action adaptation of an anime we’ve received so far. That said it’s far from perfect, so today I’m going to do a brief overview of the movie and some things I liked and disliked about this adaptation.
Starting with the concept of Ghost in the Shell:
Primarily set in the mid-twenty-first century in the fictional Japanese city of Niihama, Niihama Prefecture (新浜県新浜市Niihama-ken Niihama-shi), otherwise known as New Port City (ニューポートシティ Nyū Pōto Shiti), the manga and the many anime adaptations follow the members of Public Security Section 9, a special-operations task-force made up of former military officers and police detectives. Political intrigue and counter-terrorism operations are standard fare for Section 9, but the various actions of corrupt officials, companies, and cyber-criminals in each scenario are unique and require the diverse skills of Section 9’s staff to prevent a series of incidents from escalating.
In this post-cyberpunk iteration of a possible future, computer technology has advanced to the point that many members of the public possess cyberbrains, technology that allows them to interface their biological brain with various networks. The level of cyberization varies from simple minimal interfaces to almost complete replacement of the brain with cybernetic parts, in cases of severe trauma. This can also be combined with various levels of prostheses, with a fully prosthetic body enabling a person to become a cyborg. The main character of Ghost in the Shell, Major Motoko Kusanagi, is such a cyborg, having had a terrible accident befall her as a child that ultimately required her to use a full-body prosthesis to house her cyberbrain. This high level of cyberization, however, opens the brain up to attacks from highly skilled hackers, with the most dangerous being those who will hack a person to bend to their whims.
One thing I really liked about the movie was how strongly they kept to the source material. Several scenes from the previous movie were included so faithfully that I plan to do a side-by-side comparison when its released for sale. I also felt the movie did a decent job of portraying the Major’s inner conflict and question of, “What makes one human?”. I can understand why many other reviewers felt the movie lacked in this respect as it doesn’t capture the philosophical conundrum quite as in-depth. However there were several scenes in the movie that clearly tackled this concept, and I find it difficult to fault it for not living up to the amazing job done in its animated predecessor.
Now for some of my issues with the movie. My first complaint is actually the entire first 10 minutes of the movie. The acting and dialogue were pretty rough and gave a poor first impression for the movie overall. The Major’s origin story could’ve been explained throughout the film much more organically than the cringeworthy performances made here. The whole, “I don’t see her as a machine, I see her as a weapon.”, line made it clear who the real villain was from the beginning, and I couldn’t find a wall to slam my head into fast enough. They quickly follow that up with Kusanagi’s “nude suit” in the next 10 minutes of the movie which made her look more like a creepy Barbie than a badass cyborg. If that’s not bad enough you quickly realize the marketing team really blew their load by promoting the most iconic scenes in the teasers, and its filled with enough clichés that I could make my own episode of CinemaSins.
That said, I still really enjoyed this film. Maybe it’s just because I’ve been waiting for a good live-action adaptation of an anime, but I think there’s more to it than that.
One of the scenes I was most worried about turned out to be one of the best in the film. When I first saw images of Batou I was sure this movie was going to tank. Surely, I thought, there was no way they could show his eyes without people walking out of the theater asking for their money back. However the eye reveal turned out to be both comical and fit well into the story — though I found it odd just a few scenes later he was driving a car. Actually, I should add that I think Batou was one of the best, most accurately portrayed characters in the movie.
There was also another scene in the movie which really changed my view of the film overall. Until this point I was actually pretty annoyed with how little character development there was, but this scene gave an exceptional explanation for it.
“You are what everyone will become one day”
“You don’t know how alone that makes me feel”
The Major often speaks about how she doesn’t make connections the way other people do, and begins questioning her past. In a weird way, I suddenly understood why I wasn’t attached to the characters like I would be in other movies. Like Kusanagi, the viewer is just kind of thrown into her life without any context or backstory. This is a film that hits the ground running, and would probably have done much better without that first 10 minutes I mentioned before.
Now I’d really like to go more in-depth about the ridiculous amount of notes I took during this movie, but I think I’ll save that for the podcast. Until then I’m going to cut this short and force myself to give this movie a rating. Like I said, it’s very likely my favorite anime adaptation thus far, but as a standard movie it does leave a lot to be desired — especially in the scripting department.
I give Ghost in the Shell 3.5/5 ghosts
Remind me never to do half ratings again… I can’t get that last lil ghost to line up to save my life.
So what did you think of the movie? A lot of people seem to think that its garbage and many are angry over yet another white-washed movie. Let me know your thoughts on it in the comments below.