Movie Review : Ghost in the Shell (2017)
Ghost in the Shell is a Japanse animation movie based on a manga by Masamune Shirow. It gained a cult following in the nineties and early two thousands for being intelligent pop culture, a "cartoon" which addressed philosophical questions about a post-human future. Cool, right? I've owned a Ghost in the Shell DVD for over ten years and would've been happy to keep it at that. Somewhere, a movie studio executive thought there would be a quick buck to squeeze out of a live-action adaptation, so we've got a... *sight* live-action American Ghost in the Shell movie now.
And it's beyond horrible, really. It's shit.
In this Ghost in the Shell adaptation, Mira Killian and her parents are victims of a terrorist attack and while her body is destroyed, scientists of Hanka Robotics (working along with the government) are able to save her brain and implant it inside a synthetic body. The proverbial shell in the title of the movie. A year later, Mira has attained the rank of Major in the local police force (I know, right?) and after thwarting a terrorist attack against Hanka, she plugs into a robotic geisha's code in order to find the culprit and gets hacked by an unknown entity. And that entity has a thing or two to tell Mira about her past.
This movie is really confusing, but it is even more so if you've actually seen the original anime. Because (hold your underwear), it's NOT a remake of the anime. Ghost in the Shell is based on a different part of the Masamune Shirow manga. What makes it confusing is that it randomly added scenes and visual cues from the anime to pander to its audience. It feels like it tried to shove parts of Blade Runner inside a Tron movie in order to borrow credibility. This has to be the most shameless and obnoxious way of trying to hit a studio-imposed demographic I've ever seen.
There's the famous dumpster truck driver scene from the anime transferred into this movie, which fits the narrative but doesn't add any value outside of anime fans being like... "look, they added this scene from the original and... they could've done without," for a moment. I get it, the anime is way too cerebral for a Hollywood remake and addresses ideas of programming in a nuanced way, but don't pillage it for scrap parts. If you're going to make a big, dumb Ghost in the Shell movie with pseudo-philosophical one liners like: "We cling to memories as if they define us, but... they really don't. What we do is what defines us," assume what you're trying to do.
The repurposing of great movie scenes to fit a mediocre narrative and the use of prefabricated philosophical one liners aren't the only problems of Ghost in the Shell, though. The movie's been accused of white washing (using white actors for non-white parts) before it even came out. I defend a lot of movies against that accusation because there's a difference between a localized adaptation and actual white washing, but Ghost in the Shell is a textebook and utterly shameless example. If you're still excited about watching this movie and don't want the ending ruined, stop reading now because...
Mira Killian is not Scarlett Johansson's character's real name... it's Motoko Kusinagi... like, you know, the character in the original manga. Scarlett... is.... Motoko. THE TWIST OF THE FUCKING MOVIE IS THAT SHE'S A JAPANESE WOMAN. BUT SHE'S WHITE. AND HER JAPANESE BOYFRIEND IS NOW WHITE TOO. How fucking lazy and pandering is that? Sure, it can be explained by the fact that Hanka Robotics gives white shells to everyone, but why hire a token Japanese guy (Takeshi Kitano, of all people) to play Chief Aramaki then? Doesn't that locate the freakin' movie in Tokyo by default if law enforcement speaks Japanese? Then why is everyone white? What's your fucking excuse? How difficult would it have been to localize to, let's say New York?
I've willingly watched bad movies on purpose over the last couple weeks. When an independent production is terrible, the ineptitude is funny and adorable. But when a large production like this churns a half-baked script, plunders an actual iconic movie for key scenes and proudly displays the worst example of white washing I've seen in years, it's just infuriating. What I hate more than anything as an audience is to be addressed like I was stupid and Ghost in the Shell is plenty guilty of all this. The movie was a box-office flop and barely made its production budget back with its worldwide release. Don't watch this movie. Not even for the visuals. If you want cool visuals, watch the anime. At least it'll treat you with respect.