Director Rupert Sanders’ latest film, “Ghost in the Shell,” is a science fiction crime drama film based on the Japanese manga of the same name.
“Ghost in the Shell” tells the story of Major (Scarlett Johansson) who is a cybernetic individual with an entirely human brain. Along with her team, Major commands task force Section 9 to stop and capture criminals, terrorists and hackers. But when a new enemy threatens Hanka Robotics’ artificial intelligence technology, Major learns that her existence has been a lie. Her past life was not saved, it was taken. As she copes with this revelation, she will stop at nothing to discover her past and crush those who intend to cause harm to others.
“Ghost in the Shell” has been a hot topic since Scarlett Johansson was cast in the main role. This has caused a widespread reaction online about whitewashing in Hollywood and race representation in media. What “Ghost in the Shell” tries to do with Major’s character both helps and ultimately hurts the film.
The film attempts to create an idea that cybernetic individuals in the future form an environment free of ethnicity. And while the film makes a case for Johansson’s casting, the third act’s revelations and execution are not slick enough to win over detractors. Major’s relationship with Hanka Robotics ends up becoming like Jason Bourne’s plot in the “Jason Bourne” franchise.
The revelation is a mixed bag. Parts of it come off as convincing and it causes the character of Major to become empathetic to the audience. Yet other parts of Major’s creation and Hanka Robotics’ true intentions come off as the Hollywood standard for plot twists.
But twists aside, that’s not to suggest that Johansson does not fit the role of the powerful cyborg. Johansson skillfully fits the role of Major and effortlessly plays in the world that Sanders and cinematographer Jess Hall create. Johansson’s stance even changes for the film. Her interpretation of the character is stoic, but full of energy. Major’s movement is forthright: arms forward, calm but powerful.
The action sequences also present powerful moments. The film offers a counterbalance between the action and the contemplation of its main character. The action is spaced out within the film’s run time and not overly frequent. While certain moments could be more electrifying, these scenes stay bathed in the compelling ambiance of this futuristic world. The best example of this is the sequence in the bar that mixes grunge with elegance.
While not as existential as its source material, “Ghost in the Shell” offers a fun and elegantly designed ride that is faithful to the original anime (recreated shots from the original animated film occur in several sequences). And while the film’s streamlined plot never rises to true greatness, it’s not the disaster that most expected. It’s more or less a watered down version of “Blade Runner.” If you’re a fan of sci-fi and want a break from the superhero blockbusters that now dominate each year’s wide releases, “Ghost in the Shell” offers serviceable entertainment.
My Rating: 6.5/10