Ghost in the Shell, directed by Rupert Sanders, doesn’t feel like it achieves its full potential, but it still does offer enough that you are continually engaged by what it is tackling, and it never feels like it loses its way. It also helps that the film is visually stunning and there are characters that hold your interest. So while it is certainly not a film that explores everything to its fullest potential, there is still something about it that keeps you wanting to watch. But let’s dive into the full review and breakdown the many points (some good and some bad) that make up Ghost in the Shell.
Major – played by Scarlett Johansson – is the first of her kind. After a terrible accident when she was younger, her brain is fused with a cybernetic body; making her the perfect soldier. Her advanced abilities are used to bring down any terrorist threat that may crop up, but the appearance of a new threat, one that is as seemingly advanced as the Major, puts both her and her team on the path to discovering something much more sinister and dangerous than any terrorist threat.
So when I think back on this film, the thing that keeps popping up in my head; nagging at me, is how there is certainly something in it that intrigues and begins to lure you in, but before it can ever properly uncover it and explore that thing, the film begins to wrap-up, it starts to put the pieces in place for its conclusion, rather than take a hold of that interesting angle and run with it.
In the original 1995 film, one of the things I loved about it was its exploration of what it means to be human and where the Major fit in on that spectrum. In less time than the 2017 version of Ghost in the Shell, the animated film is able to set-up and then explores many varying facets to its lofty questions and situations.
Now that’s not to say that the 2017 version doesn’t make an attempt at exploring some of the more philosophical questions, it’s just that it doesn’t ever go deep enough; it skims the surface and then bounces off and goes in another direction.
This newest iteration puts its focus on other things; the villain, the Major’s past etc. But strangely, it never feels like it goes deep enough. It touches upon many areas of this technologically obsessed world (including the Major), but I never felt like it took the time to expand and properly excavate all the things that make up what is a very interesting society.
Perhaps the biggest casualty in all of it is the films main protagonist: The Major. Scarlett Johansson does a decent job playing the character. She’s certainly convincing at portraying someone whose body is cybernetic but whose brain is still human. But she doesn’t go too far with it and then end up coming off as wooden; she still allows emotion to seep into certain moments, which in turn helps to add the slightest hint of oomph to the situation.
However the issue is that the film just doesn’t give enough for there to be a fully developed individual. Again, the film only skims the surface of who the Major is, but never properly expands her into a three-dimensional person. I wanted more, and I saw that there was more in there, but I just didn’t get it.
So far a lot of my points on this film have been pretty negative and I don’t want to give the impression that I hated or disliked this film. Because there were elements to it that I liked; elements that kept me engaged and wanting to keep watching. And weirdly, one of those elements is the primary plot itself. Yes I knew how most of it would play out (due to the fact that I had seen the original film) but it didn’t affect my enjoyment of watching it. Through things like particular standout performances or incredible visuals or parts of the world and society that intrigued me, I kept wanting more of the film and its many oddities.
What I think it is that kept me so engaged is that all the elements of the film work together to support the other. If you were to take any aspect of this film and ask it to stand on its own, it would probably fail. The look of the world holds within it a story and within that story is people; people who you are interested by, and within those people is a way to see more of that world that is forever offering new and unsettling things. It all works together in a way that you always have something to hold onto, and that something will help bring you along to the next thing that the film has to show you; offer you.
But undoubtedly the thing that stands out the most in Ghost in the Shell; the thing that continually wowed me; the thing I never grew tired of getting more of, was every single visual and auditory treat that it had to give. From a conceptual level the film is stunning; a city that feels so alive and so different; filled with people who are all so unique and ever so slightly disturbing. And they all exist within locations that show the true seediness of the city. It is here that the art department on the film deserve a lot of love, as the level of design, time and effort that went into creating sets, props costumes etc. It is all so clear to see and it is sublime work that they did!
And then when you pair that brilliant craftsmanship with cinematographer Jess Hall’s work – well, then you’ve got something special. Ghost in the Shell lifts some of its identity from the original 1995 film and then also blends it with its own identity, to make something that is utterly memorable and truly outstanding. And the same can be said for the films score, which blends the old with the new, and ties it altogether into a wonderful treat for both your eyes and your ears.
So I’m left in an interesting place with Ghost in the Shell. There are certainly some glaring issues with the film; issues that will turn some people off and leave them disappointed with the experience. But, there are also parts to the film that for me, I found it easy to gorge myself upon and make something really rewarding to watch. And so where do I come down on this film? Can I recommend it?
Well the answer is… yes. I recommend Ghost in the Shell. This film isn’t going to work for everyone and that’s fair. For me, I enjoyed what I got and never felt cheated or offended by what this film was doing. Now is the original still better? Yes, of course it is. But that doesn’t mean this one can’t exist or that you still can’t make the effort to see it. So give it a go.
I’d absolutely love to hear what you thought of Ghost in the Shell, or what you thought of my review. So leave any and all feedback/comments down below. If you want to be kept up-to-date on when I post a new review, then may I suggest following my blog directly or following me over on Twitter – @GavinsRamblings. Thank you so much for reading my writing, it truly does mean so much to me, and I hope you’ll return.