Saturday, April 1, 2017

Ghost in the Shell (2017 movie)

Plot: A girl's brain gets transplanted into a robot body, and then renamed as "Major" (Scarlett Johansson), she works for the Japanese anti-terrorist police. Mysterious villain Kuze (Michael Pitt) is killing engineers from the robotics company Hanka. When Major learns that who Kuze is, it causes her to rethink her identity and her loyalty. This leads to the final battle.  [imdb]    [photos]

Review: Some cool ideas, some cool visuals, but dry and not engaging.

In the first scene, Major strips down to chase a bad guy. We see her asexualized human-shaped robot body, and this is a metaphor for the whole film. She is first a robot, and not so much the girl inside. Much later when she finds people from her past, she is still robotic -- too distant. It is the lack of emotional engagement that wrecks the film. Major never seems like the poor orphan impressed into military service, robbing the movie of emotional power.

No doubt, the hidden emotions are to show that the character is a robot, but it is easy to think of emotion-filled Sci-Fi robots. Not here. Scarlett's talents are wasted on a character who seems unemotional, or maybe she wasn't up to the job. Only her boss' character Aramaki (Takeshi Kitano) has gravity.

The plot is primarily told visually, and I found it easy to follow. This style meant we don't get discourses on philosophy or complicated plot twists, but it works on the action movie level. 

Ghost in the Shell is the most international film that I have seen since Pacific Rim. Set in Japan, we see actors from races around the world. Scarlett Johansson and Michael Pitt are white, why? Probably because she is more bankable more than Rinko Kikushi.

Major is a kind of "cool girl." In books written by men, they are modeled after the author's image of himself, not modeled after any real woman; she is a character who likes guns and competition more than fashion and children. Cool Girls are always sexy: a male character in a girl body. See the image of Major in the manga.

The Cool Girl trope is why Major needed to strip down in the opening. If the movie, was going to work, she needed to be sexy, but the sexiness got lost in the uncanny valley.

Cast: Scarlett Johansson, Takeshi Kitano, Michael Pitt, Pilou Asbaek

Directed by:
Rupert Sanders

Based on the manga by:
Masamune Shirow

The Music:
Electronic by Magnus Deus; I bought the main theme. During the film, it was hardly noticeable.

The Visuals:
The futuristic street scenes are great is all the art direction.  I liked the way they took the faces of the robot bodies apart.

I think the uncanny valley was the issue with Major's body -- odd/creepy not so sexy. 

1.5  stars: I can't decide between 1.5 stars and 2.0.  It wasn't really fun to watch, and it didn't play with philosophical ideas as it might have.


More: I know Ghost in the Shell primarily from the soundtrack album. I never read the manga or saw the TV show.

Even More: At 1.5 stars, it might end up on my worst of the year list. That would be too bad, because it was worthy effort.