Review: Ghost in the Shell

Ghost in the Shell
5 10

PLOT: The Major (Scarlett Johansson) is the field commander of an anti-terrorist unit called Section 9. Possessing an artificial body but a human brain, she and her upgraded cohorts hunt a mysterious cyber-terrorist, Kuze (Michael Pitt) who’s attempting to dismantle the robotics firm that created The Major’s body, and, presumably, saved her life.

REVIEW: I must preface this by saying that I’ve never seen the animated GHOST IN THE SHELL, although I’ve heard plenty about it over-the-years, with many calling it one of the best anime, and certainly, Hollywood has been trying to do its own version for awhile. Yet, their mega-budget effort has already drawn the ire of fans due to the perceived whitewashing of the major roles, a valid criticism, although this isn’t the first time something like this has happened, and it won’t be the last.

So how is the actual film? Truth be told, despite the controversy I was keen on seeing this, being a fan of both Johansson, and director Rupert Sanders’s style, something which distinguished SNOW WHITE & THE HUNTSMAN somewhat and was badly missing from the sequel. Sad to say though, despite some interesting visuals Sanders’s film is wafer-thin, playing more like a bad cyberpunk thriller a la JOHNNY MNEMONIC (right down to the bored Takeshi Kitano performance) than the cutting-edge thriller fans of the original might have expected.

It boggles the mind that the studio sunk so much into a movie and then allowed it to go out in such a dramatically inert form, with flavorless, dull action scenes, a languid pace (it feels far longer than it’s relatively economical 106 minutes) and an odd performance from Johansson, that feels like a riff on her much-better UNDER THE SKIN.

Given that she’s playing, to some extent, a robot, Johansson’s stiff performance can be excused, but having a humorless, unemotional lead as the film’s anchor means it becomes an ordeal. There’s no spunk or levity whatsoever, which is a shame as Johansson has much promise as an action heroine. It’s just an ill-conceived piece of miscasting on her part, but she’s far from the thing that torpedos the film. No one else fares any better, from Pilou Asbaek as her sidekick, Batou, to a slumming Juliette Binoche, to Peter Ferdinando, who was amazing in the indie thriller HYENA, as the generic suit sending Johansson on missions.

Only Michael Pitt seems to be having fun as the cyborg Kuze, who’s like a living Max Headroom from hell. If the movie at least had some of that kind of energy it would have been salvageable. Instead, Sanders seems like he’s trying to make BLADE RUNNER, something he doesn’t have the substance for. There are some nice shots and CGI, and the score by Clint Mansell and Lorne Balfe is better than the film itself, but overall this is a total bore. None of the action scenes have anything that distinguishes them at all, with chaotic editing and choreography, something especially notable with this coming out so soon after the beautifully executed JOHN WICK 2 or the brutal LOGAN.

Which brings me back to the whitewashing, and the clumsy way the filmmakers try to acknowledge it. It ranks as one of the most ill-advised movie decisions since the makers of REMEMBER ME tried to use 9/11 as a shock plot device - and is already sending Twitter abuzz now that embargo has broken. But, to those of you unconcerned with that, I can still say, even if you haven’t got any problems at all with the way it’s been cast, GHOST IN THE SHELL is a total bore. The anime should have been left alone, and this should be a cautionary tale the next time anyone thinks about making a live action AKIRA.

Source: JoBlo.com



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