Ghost in the Shell is the American, live-action adaptation of Masamune Shirow’s original Japanese comic, Manga, and Mamoru Oshii’s classic 1995 animated film of the same name. I have been looking forward to this film for quite some time. Not only because I was a fan of the original animated film, but because I wanted to see how Hollywood would handle adapting this iconic Japanese story to American screens.
This film takes place in the far future and tells the story of Major Mira Killian (Scarlet Johansson) who was fatally injured in a refugee boat attack. A company named Hanka Industries saves her by placing her brain and mind, or ghost, in an artificial body known as shells. After her recovery, she starts working in the city for an anti-terrorism division known as Section 9. She and her partner Batou (Pilou Asbæk) starts searching for the terrorist known as Kuze (Michael Pitt) who recently started causing havoc in the city by murdering civilians with hacked people and robots. However, the Major is struggling with memories of her past life before joining Section 9. It isn’t until her confrontation with Kuze does she start searching for answers.
Ghost in the Shell is a visual spectacle. I was very impressed with the special effects used in the film. The action sequences are also a delight to watch. There isn’t a ton of action in the film, but when there is, it is very exciting and fun. However, this is all the amount of praise I can give the film.
The original animated film delivered a truly captivating story within an interesting world with unique and diverse characters. This adaptation did not deliver on any of these points. The story was simplified which is insulting to audience members who pay attention to the film’s story. I love it when a film does some world-building so the audience can try to imagine themselves in that universe. The 1995 Ghost in the Shell didn’t have the best world-building, but it is better than the poor job they did in this version. There isn’t any character development with any of the characters in the film, besides the Major, but even then her arc is not fulfilling and I felt like I was never given a reason to care about her. The movie just expects audiences to.
I will say this; however, this film did a better job at the “What does it mean to be human?” aspect of the story than the original version. That was a big surprise, but I do not think I was completely sold on Johansson’s performance as the Major. Johansson is a talented actress; however, I think her portrayal in this film fell flat. Yes, the Major is a cyborg with little to no emotion, but I don’t think Johansson was prepared for this role.
I genuinely think the makers of this film were trying to appeal to fans of the source material and newcomers to the Ghost franchise. The film completely rips scenes from the 1995 film and puts it in this film which was a joy to see as a fan, but these scenes don’t hold as well as they did before. The best thing that could come out of this film is that audiences might go check out the original film to appreciate the story and originality.