GHOST IN THE SHELL | REVIEW
I was incredibly worried about GHOST IN THE SHELL. A manga serialised story from 1989 and am anime masterpiece from 1995. Both were pretty much set in the BLADE RUNNER universe. An inspiring masterpiece hugely responsible for making anime cool in the western world. GHOST IN THE SHELL is one of the biggest live action versions made from an animation and as such it needed to be good. There has also been an incredible run of totally shite blockbusters of late that, again, I needed this to be awesome, we needed a blockbuster win, and thank the gods WE GOT IT. GHOST IN THE SHELL is out Thursday 30th March in Australia from Paramount Pictures, it is rated M and runs for 107mins.
GHOST IN THE SHELL SYNOPSIS:
In the not too distant future, Major (Scarlett Johansson) is the first of her kind. A human saved from a disastrous tragedy, who is cyber-enhanced to be a perfect soldier devoted to stopping the world’s most dangerous criminals. When terrorism reaches a new level that includes the ability to hack into people’s minds and control them, Major is uniquely qualified to stop it. As she prepares to face a new enemy, Major discovers that she has been lied to: her life was not saved, it was stolen. She will stop at nothing to recover her past, find out who did this to her and stop them before they do it to others.
THE WHITEWASHING BULLSHIT:
Everyone loves a good whine. And I do admit that on some occasions Hollywood does whitewash the shit out of it all – call it part of the right wing Trump agenda. But GHOST IN THE SHELL is NOT WHITEWASHING. The story is about an Asian girl whose brain is removed from her body and is placed inside a robotic weapon. She may look like a lovely Scarlett Johansson but she is a ROBOT. Considering this is an American made movie filmed in New Zealand I think the actor cultural background balance is admirable. THE END.
I am a visual person, the visual aesthetic will always appeal to me, it is art and I love seeing art. Visually GHOST IN THE SHELL is one of the best movies ever made. It is BLADE RUNNER, meets MATRIX meets THE CELL. As such I was spellbound. It follows in nearly frame for framing the 1995 anime and due to this some people may find it a little bland. Not me – to copy the ’95 masterpiece for live action is all I wanted them to do.
I always put it down to the differences in culture when I saw the original and love that it’s more cerebral that explanatory. It doesn’t move at a cracking pace, it doesn’t have endless dialogue to explain everything but it does respect the source material. And I bloody loved it all. My initial words at the movie’s end: “the best Blade Runner movie since Blade Runner.”
Could GHOST IN THE SHELL have been better in the hands of a more skilled director? Most definitely, I would have loved to have seen this made by a Peter Jackson or even someone deep and left of field like Scorcese or for the love of god bring back Kubrick. But the studio, in need of almost all control brought on-board second-time feature director Rupert Sanders. Best known for SNOW WHITE AND THE HUNTSMAN. I have no idea how he got the gig but he did a remarkably good job of it.
Sanders embraced the visuals of the storyline and maintained the minimalism from the ’95 script. For me it works, a few others I have spoken to loathed the movie because of the lack of script. But none of them have seen the original. I spoke to friends at a screening last night that literally walked out. All of them very young and without the spoon-fed dialogue they just didn’t understand the entire point of it.
Clint Mansell’s score is one of the best I have heard in years. It is a Daft Punkesque trip to a more hardcore TRON soundtrack. It is grungy, futuristic and could be used to re-score BLADERUNNER. Mansell scored MOON, BLACK SWAN, PI and REQUIEM FOR A DREAM, his music was a splendid pulse to dystopia. I will buy this soundtrack before I buy the Blu Ray.
The cast are superb. Johansson is a goddess and nails Major perfectly. You have to remind yourself – SHE IS A ROBOT mostly. She needs to maintain a lack of emotion and random movement. Also she must be sexual enough to be a somewhat fetishised fantasy and at the same time she needs to be a war machine heroine. Think Alicia Vikander in EX MACHINA if that character was also a combat badass. Johansson does it. I also love she isn’t an uber skinny young actress, she is a normal person and it makes her better. I did find her robot walking oddly very masculine, but it works, again, a robot. Johsannson, it seems, basically got her BLACK WIDOW movie without being BLACK WIDOW (Kernel Blake threw that in haha).
Michael Pitt nearly steals the show, my good I love him. Part pin up, part terrifying. And that’s the actor, what he does with the characters are superb. The biggest let down with his character was that we deserved more screen time with him.
Pilou Asbæk is also fantastic with his portrayal as Batou. The closest person to Major who she may even call a friend. And rounding out my faves was Japanese stalwart, Takeshi Kitano. His line “don’t send sheep to kill a wolf” (or something to that effect) just before he shoots a guy in the head was a crowd pleaser.
If you love the manga or the anime I think you will love this version of GHOST IN THE SHELL. It is very true to the source material and as such may not be liked by the younger generation. I fracking loved it. It is a visual world with some insane action, a sublime score and a lead actress who needs to celebrated.
JK POP SCORE:
KERNEL BLAKE POP SCORE:
KERNEL JACK’S POP SCORE (dead to me):
Jason King owns, writes and edits Salty Popcorn and Spooning Australia. He is a movie, food, restaurant, wine, chocolate, bacon, burger and brussels sprouts addict. He is a member of the Australian Film Critics Association and has been in the Australian movie industry for 26yrs. Furthermore he loves watching people trip over and is Leonardo DiCaprio’s biggest fan. ** Images used are courtesy of various sources on Google or direct from the distributor or publisher. Credit has been given to photographers where known – images will be removed on request.