Today marks the release of the live-action Ghost in the Shell film. Reaction to the film — particularly the casting — have been all over the place. Does this movie have a place in the greater overall world of Ghost in the Shell? Does it represent the anime and manga that have come before it? Is it worth your time and money? Keep reading this review to find out.
First off, I’m not necessarily one that has been screaming about “white washing” or anything like that, though I would not have complained at all if an Asian actress had played the part of the Major. Don’t get me wrong, I like seeing Scarlett Johansson running around in a skin-tight body suit as much as the next guy, and it would have been nice to see an Asian actress in the role, but overall this film was respectful of the subject matter. Scarlett definitely looks the part, and while the main character could have obviously been cast differently, the movie does have some scenes and exposition throughout that explains how we end up with ScarJo the way she is. It is definitely handled respectfully, and the rest of the main cast is really quite diverse, but I’ll talk more about them a bit later.
The story of this retelling does veer from the original just a bit, though in ways that absolutely make sense. I won’t get into too many specifics since I always strive to keep my movie reviews spoiler-free, but you’re still going to have loads of cybernetic enhancements, corporate espionage, questions about what it really means to be human, and a crazy futuristic skyline and city that bring everything together.
Speaking of the skyline, and the visuals in general, this movie is stunning in that department. From the way that the giant holographic advertising breathes life into the city, to the overall lighting and effects, you really feel as though you’re drawn into this future. Most of the character design is rather subdued, which is appreciated. Many sci-fi films like to speculate about the crazy sorts of things that people will be wearing in the future when in reality there’s unlikely to be any huge changes in some of the most basic attire.
I’ve mentioned that Scarlett Johansson really does look the part of the Major, and care was taken to truly show her in the cybernetic body we expect the Major to have. Many of the remaining characters are enhanced in some way or another that also really sticks to the source material. The rest of the main cast was also cast very, very well. Takeshi Kitano was almost exactly what I’d expect Aramaki to be. Pilou Asbæk took some time away from taking over the Iron Islands (he’s Euron Greyjoy in Game of Thrones) and his portrayal of Batou was spot on. Other than needing slightly longer, slicked back hair, Batou matched the anime almost exactly. The rest of Section 9, while not as prominent in the film, were similarly well cast. If you held up a shot of the movie Section 9 cast next to the anime characters, you’ll see what I’m talking about.
If you are a fan of the anime or even the manga before that, I think you will find plenty to like in Ghost in the Shell. It has enough of what I’d consider iconic moments from the source material to really tie it back to the original, though it does not follow the original story to the letter. The changes that were made make sense and make for an approachable movie for fans of the series and newcomers alike.
Ghost in the Shell
- The visuals are simply stunning.
- Lots of nods to the original source without simply copying the entire original.
- The story works, even though it is not completely canon to the source.
- I know the Major is a cybernetic human hybrid, but some of ScarJo's movements were a bit too robotic
- Would have liked to have seen more action from Section 9