Review by J.T. Johnson
Before I get started with my proper review of “Ghost in the Shell”, lets go ahead and deal with the whitewashing controversy that has developed around this movie. First off, if you feel that way, then I completely understand this though I really think it comes down more to greed and that the studios felt that Scarlett Johansson would put more butts into seats. Beyond that, I’ll just let the director of the original “Ghost in the Shell” anime films speak his mind with the following quote.
“The Major is a cyborg and her physical form is an entirely assumed one. The name ‘Motoko Kusanagi’ and her current body are not her original name and body, so there is no basis for saying that an Asian actress must portray her. Even if her original body (presuming such a thing existed) were a Japanese one, that would still apply. I can only sense a political motive from the people opposing it, and I believe artistic expression must be free from politics.”
Okay, now I have just one more thing to say. I’ve never read the manga or seen the original anime films that this movie is based on. I have no idea how good an adaptation this film really is and cannot speak to its authenticity as an adapted work. I can only talk about the film that I saw.
With all that being said, I felt that the movie was a bit dull to be honest. First, I’ll note what I did like about the movie. As the trailers have already shown us, the special-effects are great for the most part and this is one beautiful film to look at almost all the way through to the end.
Secondly, Scarlett Johansson gives a great performance as Major. She is a robot with a human brain and even though she has pretty much accepted her life as a paid assassin, Major does begin to have flashes that will send her on a journey of self-discovery. The movie’s story is basically “The Bourne Identity” with a “Blade Runner” tone.
I also liked how Johansson moved. Even when she is simply walking, she has an almost artificial movement that reminds the audience that her body is an artificial creation. People may be complaining about her casting, but she is unfortunately one of the few highlights of the movie.
The problem comes from the fact that the story is not really well developed. Beyond Major, I don’t feel like I get to know any of the other characters accept for Major’s partner, Batou (Pilou Asbæk). Therefore, by the end of the movie I found that I didn’t really care what any of them were doing.
The action is also another problem. It’s not always bad, but it also promises way more of a punch than it can ultimately deliver. Just when an action scene really starts to get going, it’s over and we’re already moving on. Then there is the final action scene.
This scene is worth noting for the fact that the action feels very hollow and it’s the only time that the usually reliable special-effects just don’t work. Basically, Major ends up fighting a huge walking Spider Tank. I felt as though I was watching someone take on the final boss of a video game and it turns out to be a very anticlimactic scene as a result.
The movie itself only clocks in at a little over 90 minutes, minus the credits. The filmmakers could have taken a little more time to expand the action scenes and more importantly, develop characters that I ended up not even caring about. By the time the credits roll, I’m left having looked at a very beautiful yet ultimately forgetful film.