I saw this film last Sunday. To be perfectly honest, I forgot completely about it until this morning. If that doesn’t tell you all you need to know, I don’t know what will.
Ghost In The Shell is the live action adaptation of the very popular anime of the same name. It’s an intricate science fiction action drama that is, in essence, difficult to describe. Scarlett Johansson plays a cybernetic soldier who is engineered to work espionage missions for a very powerful corporate robotics conglomerate. At some point in the film, we are introduced to the antagonist, an Anakin-Skywalkeresque ex-cybernetic soldier who tells Johansson that she’s not what she thinks she is, and thus she must embark an existential journey deciphering what it means to be alive, and whether or not humans can be trusted. If that sounds confusing to you, you’re absolutely right. Let’s go ahead and get right into this. Similarly to this year’s The Great Wall, Ghost In The Shell opts out of exposition almost entirely. There’s some onscreen text at the beginning of the film to remind us that this is a science fiction story, and then a single scene in which Johansson is created while the opening credits roll, but otherwise, there is nothing at all to help out members of the audience who, like myself, have never seen the original. I saw the film with a friend who had been a fan of the anime, and he was plenty entertained with the adaptation, but for people like me, the film was just too esoteric to allow me to care at all about what was happening.
The film is pretty competently directed by Rupert Sanders. The CGI was unobtrusive and the action was fairly decent. And yet, there was a constant sense in the back of my mind that this could have been more. The action could have absolutely wowed me. It could have blown me away and pioneered a new form of Science Fiction action a la The Matrix, but instead, it was just kind of there. It was choreographed to be just entertaining enough to keep your attention but didn’t take any risks or bring anything new to the table. Part of this issue, of course, stems from the fact that I wasn’t emotionally invested in any of the characters or aware of the stakes of any of the skirmishes. The script problems really permeate their way into the entire film. I will say that, save for an absurd Boss Battle-esque finale, nothing was glaringly bad. Johansson brings her token emotional distance to the protagonist, and yet, as is usually the case when you have a character incapable of emotion, it is incredibly difficult to connect with them. The music is far out, and the cinematography is decent, I suppose. Yet the movie just can’t escape the curse of failing to expand beyond mediocrity. Its only real strength is in its World Building. Since I couldn’t really follow what was happening, most of my interest was directed towards the background of Neo-Tokyo, in which every shot is dripping with a stylized, futuristic portrayal of what Japan would look like centuries from now. That and the film’s sound design were the only aspects that really felt fresh. Again, this wasn’t a matter of a movie being awful, it simply didn’t live up to any potential it may have had. With the fact that it was downright incomprehensible at times matched with the reality that it is utterly forgettable just a few days later, I would advise you skip Ghost In The Shell.
All images are from Ghost In The Shell, by Paramount Pictures