In Ghost in the Shell, director Rupert Sanders creates a visually stunning world, which supports the iconic original story of its source. Yet, an emptiness still quietly lingers on the overall product.
Ghost in the Shell highlights a dystopian future, where the mind and the body are key ingredients of a technological world. Much like its predecessors, the movie plays on the importance of one’s mind and the value it holds.
This is none more evident than our main protagonist Major (Scarlett Johansson). Playing an operative for an anti-terrorist organization, her construction consists of a fully functional human mind installed into a cybernetic body. With a combination of the best robotic features mixed with the complexity of the human mind, she is viewed as a weapon and an enhancement of humanity.
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However, with the sudden introduction of perceptual glitches in her system, Major converts to a path of discovering her own identity. What follows is a captivating story, asking ethical questions regarding freedom of choice.
The story has a familiar feel to it, with the past releases of Blade Runner and The Matrix (which was inspired from the original Ghost in the Shell). So, we are, of course, re-visited with the familiar tropes touched on from such movies.
It’s understandable then that it took Hollywood over twenty years to introduce the animated masterpiece into a live-action film. The 2017 release breathes a sense of freshness in today’s cinema, potentially creating a ground-breaking franchise. However, there’s still one big question on fans’ minds: how was the movie overall?
If I were to describe Ghost in the Shell, “beautiful” would be considered an understatement. Quite easily the MVP of the movie would be the overall visual effects, stunningly capturing the enhanced future. From the original manga to the cult anime and now the live-action film, Rupert Sanders does justice to the world created by Masamune Shirow.
From the start, we were provided with the jaw-dropping creation of our main character. Flowing along seamlessly, I found myself gawking at the intricate details added. Not a space of the screen was wasted. Little did I know, this was only just the beginning.
The futuristic world immersed you with landscape shots of a towering city flooded with holographic images. Almost every scene provided eye-catching details that quite literally made the hairs on my arm stand up. There were certain moments that put me in a trance, where I physically couldn’t look away, basking in the beauty in front of me.
I applaud the stunning and visionary work of all who were involved in creating the visual effects. It is truly a creation worthy of IMAX 3D viewing.
With all that, however, the film seemed to fall behind slightly. Playing catch-up with the visual effects, there was a certain emptiness clouding the movie. Johansson did provide a convincing performance, as it was evident there was a disconnect between Major’s mind and her body. However, the role was quite limited. Still, it’s not the fault of the actress.
Almost like a delicious meal missing an ingredient, the movie lacked certain substance from its characters. As previously stated, Johansson’s role almost required a cold performance, unfortunately causing a disconnect with the supporting characters as well as the audience.
In ironic fashion, the movie emulated its protagonist—visually stunning, but unfortunately burdened with an internal emptiness. The stunning visuals didn’t match the movie’s lack of life.
Perhaps this was what was intended—to emulate the overall feeling of the main character. In normal circumstances that would be fine, but a visually stunning project requires the rest to match it. Let’s face it, an underwhelming gift that’s perfectly wrapped is still underwhelming at the end of the day.
Overall, despite the criticisms, the movie was an enjoyable watch. The visuals and story were enough to drive the narrative forward. There’s potential to make this a dominating franchise, as there is clearly magic evident in the movie. With more than an adequate start, I do hope that any future sequels can build on what was created and enhance it. If it does manage to achieve that, then this would indeed be a franchise to look out for.