Ghost in the Shell (2017) Review: Does It Live up to the Original?

Updated on April 3, 2017
Scarlett Johansson as the Major.
Scarlett Johansson as the Major.

What Is Ghost In The Shell?

Ghost In The Shell (2017) is a science-fiction film based on the animated film and manga of the same name. It was directed by Rupert Sanders and written by William Wheeler, Jamie Moss, and Ehren Kruger. The film stars Scarlett Johansson (Motoko Kusanagi), Micheal Pitt (Hideo Kuze), Takeshi Kitano (Chief Daisuke Aramaki), Juliette Binoche( Dr. Ouélet), Pilou Asbaek (Batou), and Chin Han (Togusa). The film is set in the future where humanity has become cybernetic. The plot follows a woman whose surviving brain is placed inside synthetic, mechanically augmented body. She is later trained to become the perfect soldier.

Actors & Characters

Ghost In The Shell (2017) International pos
Ghost In The Shell (2017) International pos

The actors' performances in the movie mirror the characters as they appear in the anime. Scarlett's quiet and solemn demeanor reflects the solitude of Motoko. Her walk is also a great touch. Since she is an android she shouldn't walk like the others. Batou's appearance and attitude is well reproduced through Pilou's big physique and tough demeanor. Last but not least, is Takeshi Kitano's masterful depiction of Chief Daisuke. Daisuke is played as a brooding and elusive individual. He is the only character who speaks Japanese in the film and whom requires subtitles. His character reminds me of the Japanese roots of the series.

The Geisha
The Geisha

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Ghost In The Shell (2017) has an original narrative that feels more like a prequel to the 1995 film. The film's focus was on the Puppet Master and his illegal ghost hacks throughout Japan. Hanka Robotics, the world's top creator in augmentative technology, has begun to experiment on the invention of fully-synthetic augmented bodies called "shells." They plan to soon integrate the human brain into it as opposed to A.I. With the conscious mind inhabiting the body a "ghost" will be created. The story gives way more information than the 1995 version such as who Major Kusanagi is, how she came to work Section 9, and how Batou got his eye-implants, etc.

The world is the same (if not more technologically advanced) this time around. The megalopolis now feels more crowded as it is littered with holograms. Cyber-terrorism is still on the rise due to technological advances. The Puppet Master narrative has been instead replaced by a cyborg named Kuze (who is a failed Hanka test subject). The story skillfully echoes the narrative of the original and does it without copying the same exact story elements.

More importantly, the theme of self-identity is kept intact. Mira Killian (Scarlett Johansson) spends the movie discovering and transforming into her identity as Motoko. She asks questions and finds those answers through her experiences and people she meets. This time around the narrative is more personal. And the narrative is mostly tailored around the Major and her past.

A lot of the over existential, philosophical dialogue is cut out or heavily reduced. Instead, the film focus more on action and Killian's storyline. There are also more light-hearted moments. Also, the haunting chorales are absent through. Instead the film is more upbeat and resembles a futuristic crime thriller.

Nudity

Scarlett Johansson (Motoko Kusanagi) as she takes off her coat exposing her thermo-optical suit.
Scarlett Johansson (Motoko Kusanagi) as she takes off her coat exposing her thermo-optical suit.

Where as Ghost In The Shell animated film was nuanced in its use of nudity, this Ghost In The Shell has fallen victim to Hollywood's sensitive depiction of skin. The movie's PG-13 rating should be indicative of what to expect. The nudity is heavily censored to the point where it never appears she's nude at all. The major's thermo-optic suit is as close to nude as the movie will get.

Special & Practical Effects

Scarlett Johansson (Motoko Kusanagi) as she activates her thermo-optical camoflauge.
Scarlett Johansson (Motoko Kusanagi) as she activates her thermo-optical camoflauge.

The film's special effects were amazing and recreated experience the feel of the original. As mentioned before, holograms are scattered throughout the megalopolis and look authentic. The thermos optic camouflage was done flawlessly as she completely disappeared when it activated. The practical effect look of the geisha was nicely crafted. And the background of the megalopolis during Motoko's fight scenes were illustrately manufactured through expert use of the green screen.

Nods To The Original

One of the greatest strengths of Ghost In The Shell (2017) were its nods to the original. The scene featuring the creation of the female cybernetic body was redone here in all its glory. The live imagery added more detail and life to such an already incredible scene. The infamous dives and thermo-optic camouflage scenes are in the film as well. The beautiful cinematography of the alleyways, flooded streets, and megalopolis down to the recreation of actual moments from the 1995 film are all here. There's more that I didn't list (mind comms, Batou's eye implants, etc) but the movie manages to incorporate all the these elements while developing an original story.

Closing

Scarlett Johansson as Motoko Kusanagi
Scarlett Johansson as Motoko Kusanagi

So does Ghost In The Shell (2017) live up to the original animated film? Absolutely, and the spirit of the series is embedded straight in to the movie. The changes to the narrative are subtitle and do not affect the movie's integrity. The actors are living, breathing counterparts to the characters in the animated film. And more importantly the controversy of white washing (while important) shouldn't affect how you view this film. On its own, it is a great science-fiction film. Compared to the original, it is an homage to a highly regarded and respected franchise.

Ghost In The Shell (2017) is rated PG-13 and available in theaters.

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