By Dave B.
In Ghost in the Shell, Major (Scarlett Johansson) is a super-soldier assigned to an elite counterterrorism unit of the Japanese government. Although many people in this near-future version of Tokyo have cybernetic enhancements, Major is unique: she has a human brain in a completely manufactured robotic body. When senior employees at Hanka Robotics (the corporation that created her body) begin being assassinated, Major must discover who the killer is while uncovering the mystery of her own origins.
There’s a part of me that realizes that I should like this adaptation of Ghost in the Shell more than I do. Visually, it’s great and the action is better than decent. None of the performances are particularly exceptional, but none of them are particularly bad either. In a vacuum and on its own merits, Ghost in the Shell is a moderately entertaining way to spend 107 minutes.
But the fact of the matter is that Ghost in the Shell is a gigantic disappointment when viewed in the context of its source material (both manga and anime). It’s utterly devoid of the deep philosophical examinations of humanity’s relationship with technology and society that help make “Ghost in the Shell” one of the greatest international entertainment franchises on Earth (irrespective of genre or medium). In some sense, it feels inevitable that the main focus of this American-made adaptation would be on the main character uncovering her identity because personal identity is of paramount importance in current American culture. But, while personal discovery may be interesting to the one doing the discovery about oneself, it isn’t necessarily the most interesting or thought-provoking thing to see on film. At least not to me. And likely not for people who are interested in where humankind as a whole may fit into the future world that we’re building.
Ghost in the Shell isn’t bad. But it only taps into a fraction of its potential and for many fans of the franchise, that’s going to be an unforgivable sin. This movie likely didn’t make enough money for a sequel to be a real possibility and that’s too bad because sequels to this film could be good if their creators give audiences a little credit for being able to think about more than the fate of an individual. That said, I’m going to recommend Ghost in the Shell for people who have had no previous exposure to the franchise because without the greatness of previous versions to compare it to, they’re likely to find the film to be an enjoyable and visually compelling viewing experience. For fans of the “Ghost in the Shell” series as a whole however, better to pass on this one. It’s a pale imitation of what you really want to see.
I have no clue what I'm doing, but I'll keep doing whatever it is to the best of my ability.