<Review by: Sailesh Ghelani>
Directed by Rupert Sanders. Starring Scarlett Johansson, Pilou Asbaek, Michael Pitt, Takeshi Kitano, Chin Han, Juliette Binoche
Running time: 1 hour 46 minutes
This live action remake of a successful Japanese anime film from 1995 is terrible.
Perhaps Scarlett Johansson had faith in the filmmakers because she certainly couldn’t have thought the script had much merit when she read it. Considering she had no problem taking up a role that ideally should have had an Asian actor playing it – because we certainly wouldn’t be okay with a white actor playing a black character – maybe she just wanted the money.
Set in the future in an unnamed and soulless city that resembles the one from Blade Runner, Ghost in the Shell is about genetically enhancing human beings and also using robotics to augment human bodies. Major (Scarlett Johansson) is a Hanka cyborg with a human brain and a synthetic body: the ultimate machine, which the shadowy Section 9 appropriates to fight crime. But someone is killing off Hanka scientists and no one knows why until Major finds a connection to her past and must find out who she really is.
Keanu Reeves plays a robot far more interestingly than Scarlett Johansson, I’m sorry to say. Her lacklustre performance and flat dialogue delivery make her eminently replaceable in this role. There’s more acting coming from her onscreen partner Batou (Pilou Asbaek) and her boss Aramaki (Takesnhi Kitano).
Apart from having the central character not be Asian, it’s also weird that while Kitano’s character only speaks in Japanese, the rest understand it, but talk back in English. The film goes on to try and give these plot points an explanation complete with a Japanese mother for Major only to make you shake your head unconvinced at the disarray of the story.
There’s nothing about Ghost in the Shell that goes deep to explore humanity or individuality in a meaningful way. There’s plenty of stock action done with mediocre CGI and a lot of the sequences are copies of the ones in the original anime film.
The music by Lorne Balfe and Clint Mansell is dark and techno with a nice feel to it but even that can’t save the movie.
This shell is empty and not worthy of eternal life.
Read this interesting article from hollywoodreporter.com Ghost in the Shell: 4 Japanese Actresses Dissect the Movie and Its Whitewashing Twist