Thursday, March 30, 2017

“Ghost In The Shell”– Movie Review



This week, I attended a New York Times Film Club screening of the new science fiction drama, “Ghost In The Shell”, starring Scarlett Johansson. 


When criminals try to destroy the creations of a major robotics firm, can a half-human/half-robot special agent stop them before they go too far?


Hanka Robotics is a successful technology company which has pioneered advancements in the design and manufacture of robots.  In this future day and age, it is common for robots to live among humans – in fact, it becomes increasingly difficult to distinguish the humans from the robots.  One day, they discover an opportunity that suddenly presents itself:  a young woman who has suffered serious bodily injury in an accident has her brain transplanted into a new “shell” – a superior robot that can easily be mistaken for human due to new technology. 

This new form of human robot is oriented to her new world and trained in law enforcement skills; she becomes known simply as Major (Johansson), leader of Section 9, a special task force charged with the responsibility of defending society from the most dangerous of criminals.  About a year into her new life, Major must investigate a case where some of Hanka’s best robots and most senior employees are being destroyed (killed) by some unknown group of extremists.  Who would do this and why?  That’s part of what Major needs to determine quickly.

It turns out this group of high-tech terrorists have found a way to hack into minds and spread viruses.  These criminals are robots who themselves were created by Hanka, but have turned against the company when it was learned that they were lied to about their past life.  This new information forces Major to call into question her own existence:  was she also lied to by Hanka about her past?  Can she somehow fill in the blank spots in her memory regarding her personal history?  But when Major starts fighting back against Hanka herself, can she bring down the company before they murder her?


Many of the visual effects from “Ghost In The Shell” are reminiscent of “The Matrix”.  If you’re so madly in love with the effects from “The Matrix” and wanted to see them in a different movie, then maybe that’s a good thing.  On the other hand, if you were looking for something more innovative, then perhaps it’s a bad thing.  In either case, this remake (both motion pictures being based on a Japanese Manga comic) is a little muddied at times making it hard to follow.  If you are a fan of the comic (or at least saw the original Anime from 20 years ago), you might be better equipped to follow the story. 

What’s distracting is how some of the characters interact with each other.  In many scenes, the Japanese characters speak their native language (with English subtitles) and the non-Japanese characters will reply in English.  If there was an explanation for this (are they internally translating?), it wasn’t terribly clear.  This also brings up the issue that there are, in fact, many non-Japanese characters in what appears to be a major Japanese city (Tokyo?).  Perhaps this is simply a carry-over from the Manga or Anime, but if it was, again, those unfamiliar with either of these might be a little lost. 

Is it acceptable if a movie (even a remake) based on a comic can only be appreciated by those familiar with the source material?  From a creative standpoint, there may be a case for this.  However, from a business perspective, it’s a lousy idea.  The objective, of course, is to make the most money possible; if you are narrowing your audience to people familiar with the Manga, then you’ve already decided that you likely will not achieve blockbuster status.  Not that having a blockbuster should be the main (or only) goal when making a movie, but if you decide you’re not going for the widest audience possible, then you have to lower your expectations – and budget – accordingly. 

Ghost in the Shell (2017) on IMDb

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