Ghost in the Shell

Director: Rupert Sanders

Starring: Scarlett Johansson, Juliette Binoche, Takeshi Tikano, Michael Pitt, Pilou Asbaek, Chin Han, Peter Ferdinando

Rated: PG-13 (intense sequences of sci-fi violence, suggestive content and some disturbing images)

In the near future, Major is the first of her kind: A human saved from a terrible crash, who is cyber-enhanced to be a perfect soldier devoted to stopping the world’s most dangerous criminals.

 

Ghost in the Shell

By Cole Schneider

The 1995 anime version of “Ghost in the Shell” is a masterpiece. The way it expresses its heady sci-fi through a tone alternatively gritty and lyrical is remarkable. The cyberpunk thriller explores familiar genre tropes such as the problems inherent in western dualism, but it does so through such a resonant narrative that it never feels like a retread.

The 2017 American-produced live-action version of “Ghost in the Shell” is not a masterpiece. Relative to its 22 year-old sister it’s thematically vacant yet more insistent on its profundity. It must also be said that for a film about identity to be guilty of the whole trifecta—yellowface, whitewashing, white savior—of social concerns that come with bringing an Asian property to an American audience isn’t merely dubious, it’s wrong and must be condemned as such.

Not only does it harm the movie, directly failing its consumers for the time they spend in the theater, but it’s also failed their future by continuing to endorse Hollywood’s troubling past. While we’ve mostly advanced beyond the caricatured portrayals by Mickey Rooney, Marlon Brando, and John Wayne (and Katharine Hepburn, Fred Astaire, Ingrid Bergman, Peter Sellers, Peter Lorre, David Carradine, and so many more) we cannot continue to accept casting solecism from today’s films.

Joining the recent ranks of yellowfaced defalcation, which include “Star Trek into Darkness”, “Aloha”, and “Doctor Strange”, “Ghost in the Shell” is frustrating in part because it’s so poor relative to the riches of what it should have been. Instead of a Japanese sci-fi masterpiece, we have a largely European sci-fi dud.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars

 

Ghost in the Shell

By Matt Greene

Christians, Muslims, Republicans, Democrats, gay, straight, black, white; we all agree on one thing: people who say “the book is better” are the worst. Well, bring your hate to me: 2017’s Ghost in the Shell doesn’t hold a neon-candle to its 1995 progenitor. Some of the intrigue, entertainment and beautiful sci-fi visuals hold over nicely, but where the original is a potent and mind-bending trip of sci-fi thoughts and action, this new one is awkwardly broad, surface-y, and plain sloppy.

Like all artificial-intelligence stories, it’s about what makes someone “human”, with Johansson playing a cyborg with a human brain (“ghost” in this world) searching for the originator of a deadly virus. Blade-Runner-like in many ways, it’s a grimy world full of bright lights and mysterious characters. But where the original holds tightly to its effectively enigmatic nature, this one unnecessarily expands on backstory, spells-out themes, rolls-out unearned platitudes and projects emotions to such an extent that you wanna yell at the screen, “We get it! This is all REAL important!”

At the center is Johansson. Her casting should be no surprise as she is currently a premier action heroine. However, she faced backlash after many saw her casting as the next in a long-line of Hollywood whitewashing Asian characters (Aloha, Great Wall). Ghost in the Shell has a fairly understandable explanation for her look, and even uses it thematically. However, that casting mixed with the frustrating plot changes point somewhere less noble: insurance of a franchise. Ultimately, the bare bones of sci-fi greatness are covered by insecurity, bringing us a dumb-down version of a great product.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars

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