Ghost in the Shell is directed by Rupert Sanders and is a big budget-live adaptation of the popular japanese manga back in 1989 of the same name. Set in a cyber-punk futuristic version of Japan, a part-cyborg commander named “The Major” (played by Scarlett Johansson) and her task force known as Section 9 are tasked to take down any and all criminals, hackers, and terrorists. When a greater threat arises to jeopardize an artificial intelligence company and its technology, it’s up to The Major to put a stop to it. 

A small, honest disclaimer: I have never seen one bit of the original property nor its source material and I’m aware of the massive popularity that the 1995 anime film garnered way back when. Personally, I just was never exposed to it. However, I am an optimist and I went into this live-adaption with an open mind. Basically, I’m strictly judging this off what was presented in the theater.

In a nutshell and from my personal experience, Ghost in the Shell grips onto your interest from the very start and then slowly lets go of your interest going into the very end.

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The best aspect Ghost in the Shell has going is its visuals. The visuals of this film are absolutely stunning, it’s such a masterfully achievement. Shot-for-shot, the imagery of the incredibly innovative landscape of Japan is so vibrant. The way the CGI is blended in with the high-tech city is practically seamless, it truly looks like an actual city that could exist. The visuals are undeniably striking and I really bought it.

Scarlett Johansson has truly come along as a capable actress and it is definitely showcased in this performance. From Under the Skin to Lucy, “ScarJo” has shown no signs of slowing down anytime soon in her career, proving yet again to be a very compelling female actress in the lead role of Ghost in the Shell.

On the topic of compelling, let’s discuss what’s not compelling. Where Ghost in the Shell begins to trip itself is with its slow-loss of momentum throughout the plot. While the first act does hook you with an intriguing set up, its gradually derailed by generic tropes and ideas that have been done before in other sci-fi films such as RoboCop or Terminator. Concepts that have not only have been done before, but have ultimately been done better. That’s not to say that plot becomes terrible after a half hour into the film, but a lot of it just starts to come off as either fine or mediocre.

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Ghost in the Shell truly looked like it had a ton of potential to change the game in the science fiction genre. I may not have seen the original anime film, but I’ve heard on multiple accounts that it was praised for its dark, thought-provoking themes. With this live-action retelling, I was never provoked to think anything of the sort. With all the source material at the studio’s fingertips, this new reimagining could have told a cool story, but instead opted out to give audiences a taste of the same ol’ same old. In the end, Ghost in the Shell is the textbook definition of style over substance.

I’m going to give Ghost in the Shell a solid “C” on the movie grading scale. Now I’m curious to see what fans of the original property thought about this adaptation. It’s possible I could have missed something going in and maybe I should check out the original. Whether the case may be, all film is subjective and I stand with my take.

As always, thanks so much for reading and make sure to stay posted to Frank’s Takes for more reviews. Until next time, keep it 100.

– Frank

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