“Ghost in the Shell” began as a manga series by Masamune Shirow in 1989, then was made into a anime film in 1996 by Mamoru Oshii, only to be made into a live-action film directed by Rupert Sanders (Snow White and the Huntsman). The anime which is considered a classic and has clear elements utilized by The Wachowski’s in the Matrix films was in ’96 itself inspired by 80’s sic-fi. The three that immediately leapt to mind when re-watching it recently were “Blade Runner” in its atmosphere, “Tron” in its tech and pugging into cyberspace, and “Robocop” with its hardcore violence and the inner struggle of humans vs. technology.
The latest live action treatment was met with its share of controversy over the casting of Scarlett Johansson as the lead instead of an Asian actress. But that aside, the film should be judged on its quality, and its entertainment value.
Major (Johansson) is a cybernetic enhanced anti-terrorism commander. She and her team bring down cyber terrorists intent on causing chaos and looking to expose the biggest robotics company; Hanka a mysterious organization trying to perfectly blend human and machine. As they follow a trail of bodies all being high-ranking members of Hanka they discover there my be more to the company than they knew as well as the complicated origin of Major herself.
There are some pretty nice visuals throughout the film, though about 90% of them were pulled directly from the anime version. And the opening action scene was cool and inventive, unfortunately that is where the film goes downhill. It quickly becomes one lame sci-fi cliche after another, there is absolutely no originality here at all. The script is terrible, and most of the actors feel like they were given very little direction. Johansson appears to be making choices in her movements, and her slightly masculine lumbering walk. But she just ends up staring at things most of the time, when she’s not fighting other robots and cyber-enhanced dudes, most times in the dark.
There is no depth like in the anime, just one mindless action scene after another, the stakes are almost nonexistent and the hour and a half running time felt like three slogging hours. The filmmakers clearly had nothing to say and when is comes to the predictable ending, you wonder what the journey was even for.
Your better off skipping this one, and going instead to Hulu and checking out the original anime, which is not perfect, but clearly has more going for it than the multi-million dollar version.