Ghost in the Shell (2017) Review: Beautifully Boring
Spoiler Alert: I have no emotional attachment to the 1995 anime sensation Ghost in the Shell in which this film is based upon. That is not to say I am not knowledgeable and respect those who appreciate the firsts authenticity, I simply never got around to seeing it. That being said, I had mildly high expectations for Rupert Sander’s highly anticipated live adaptation of Ghost in the Shell, I was. The trailers intrigued me, the visual style, as well as the unique world in which the film takes place in, are all that I would personally consider “up my alley.” That being said, visuals are only the icing on the cake, and when that cake smells old, boy does it stale.
In then not so near future, Major (Scarlett Johansson) is the first of her kind: A human saved from a terrible crash, who is cyber-enhanced to be a perfect soldier devoted to stopping the world’s most dangerous criminals. When terrorism reaches a new level that includes the ability to hack into people’s minds and control them, Major is uniquely qualified to stop it. As she prepares to face a new enemy, Major discovers that she has been lied to: her life was not saved, it was stolen. She will stop at nothing to recover her past, find out who did this to her and stop them before they do it to others.
The opening scene in Ghost in the Shell is utterly remarkable. As the credits are fading in and out, we see how the Major is born. The scene is haunting while the human brain is implanted into a manufactured shell. The score by Clint Mansell and Lorne Balfe is nothing short of extraordinary. The scene plays out poignant, emotional and undeniably beautiful. This is the best scene in the entire film.
That is not to say that Ghost in the Shell isn’t appealing throughout, it must certainly is. The IMAX 3D enhances this cyber tech embraced the world, and as cliche, as it may sound, the visuals do in fact pop off the screen. Most of the fight scenes are brilliant to tell you the truth. When Major goes invisible and goes to hand to hand combat with a hacker, it’s pure visual eye candy, that is handled with care and shot with creativity. The scene in which Major goes into someone else’s memory code are enthralling, captivating and will be memorable for any moviegoer.
That being said, Ghost in the Shell fails to have any semblance of humanity or emotion at the stories center. Brief scenes in which Major has a “glitch” in her programming or the questions she asks while examining a real woman’s face are all great ideas. These ideas are lost in the visuals, the wooden acting and lack of care for the main protagonist.
Yes, I understand Major is a robot with a human brain, and Scarlett Johansson does precisely that. She is on pure autopilot mode here, just like she was in Lucy. She reads the lines, looks the part and does (some) stunts. Nothing more, nothing less. What is the point of having a story about the gray area between humanity and artificial intelligence, that has no humanity to it? When we are supposed to feel for her, or any character, the movies screeches to an unbearable pace with dialogue that you would expect from a network television pilot.
When the story does become more engaging, and the “twists” are revealed, it’s well at the end of the 2nd act, which is followed by Hollywood blockbuster “good vs. evil” mediocrity that us cinephiles have become numb to seeing. It pains me to say this because there are moments of greatness sprinkled throughout Ghost in the Shell, which sadly doesn’t stay their welcome. When actor Michael Pitt is introduced as a unique and captivating character, he succumbs to three scenes and no time to flesh out his character. Pitt is one of the most underappreciated actors working today, and his mystery role here is a real wasted opportunity.
My expectations may have been too high for Ghost in the Shell, and I understand that there will be an audience out there for this type of film. I thought I would be one of them; I wanted to be one of them. Sadly, besides a few memorable scenes and the visual/score matchup to be nothing short of brilliant, I was underwhelmed and bored by the once manga masterpiece.
Ghost in the Shell opens on March 31st, 2017