Review: Ghost in the Shell – Major malfunction

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Ghost in the ShellThe new film, Ghost in the Shell, is based on the manga comics that were written and illustrated by Masamune Shirow and the original 1995 anime film directed by Mamoru Oshii – both with the same name, which is in homage to Arthur Koestler’s 1967 book, The Ghost in the Machine.

In full disclosure, I have not seen nor read any of the aforementioned material, nor am I a fan of Japanese manga and anime. That said, the geeky anime fans sitting next to me at the new film’s screening were having a conniption fit over this movie – and not in a good way. So, I think I might have actually enjoyed this version more than “true fans” of the source material – which still isn’t much.

Set in the “near future” – a world in which cyber-enhancements are all the rage – a young woman’s brain is implanted into a cybernetic body, where she then fights evil-doers and terrorists as part of task force Section 9.

But, wait… are her memories real or are they implanted by the evil Hanka Robotics Corporation in order to persuade her into becoming a super crime-fighting machine?

The premise of this movie might have been interesting twenty-odd years ago when the source material first came out, but in 2017 it’s just a well-worn, antiquated concept – at least in the clunky way that screenwriters Jamie Moss and William Wheeler present it. There’s nothing new happening here with hokey lines like, “They did not save your life. They stole it.”

Ghost in the ShellIf you can make it past the humdrum plot and Saturday morning cartoon-like dialogue, Ghost in the Shell does have some amazing visual effects and cinematography. And then there’s Scarlett Johansson, who, beyond just, you know, being a fanboy favorite, delivers a very good performance as the cyborg cop, Major Mira Killian.

Johansson gives the Major a sexy determined swagger that will put a smile on your face; even as she pummels you into submission. Forget the whitewashing scandal that followed the casting of ScarJo in this part; she owns it, perfectly – despite having to deliver some of the most ridiculous lines ever written.

The movie is directed by Rupert Sanders (Snow White and the Huntsman) and also stars: Pilou Asbaek as Major’s crime-fighting friend, Batou; Takeshi Kitano as Section 9’s Chief Daisuke Aramaki; Juliette Binoche as the Major’s creator, Dr. Ouelet; and Michael Pitt as the mysterious terrorist cyborg, Hideo Kuze.

Scarlett and the special effects save the Ghost in the Shell from being a total disaster; that is, the movie is nice to look at, but not much else. Grade: 4.5/10

Photos © 2017 Paramount Pictures

Movie preview for 'Ghost in the Shell,' starring Scarlett Johansson and Juliette Binoche.

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About the author

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Bob Leeper

Bob Leeper is the co-owner and manager of "Arizona’s Pop Culture and Alternative Art Network," Evermore Nevermore. He is the co-creator of the pop culture events Steampunk Street and ENCREDICON, and is a member of the Phoenix Film Critics Society. He also curates the Facebook fan site The Arizona Cave – AZ Fans of Edgar Rice Burroughs, and is one of the few brave and bold fans of Jar Jar Binks.

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