Although Hollywood's visually stunning remake of Ghost in the Shell lacks the same philosophical depth that made the original so unique, it manages to stay relevant to a modern audience.
Based on the classic manga series by Masamune Shirow, and the 1995 animated film, the 2017 remake of Ghost in the Shell follows Scarlett Johansson's Major, a first of her kind cyborg soldier with a human brain. Combined with her dedicated team, she is tasked with fighting the city's most dangerous criminals.
It's hard not to go into Rupert Sander's latest film without any preconceptions. The huge amount of controversy surrounding the apparent 'whitewashing' of Johansson's casting has certainly placed an unwanted cloud over the release of the film. Although this is undoubtedly a problem rife within Hollywood, her performance is easily one of the film's saving graces.
Anyone who is familiar with Mamoru Oshii's 1995 film will know of the intentionally dense plot. With a constant focus on human's relationship with technology and the soul, a remake of this classic anime seems extremely relevant, especially with the recent increased reliance of technology in homes and allegations of governments across the world using technology to spy on the general public.
Although Sanders manages to take elements of the original story, it's clear that he has had to streamline it into a more digestible experience.
However, despite losing some of the original's more esoteric elements, Ghost in The Shell retains the core themes that make the story so thought-provoking. Whilst there will be some who see this as another example of Hollywood dumbing down what was previously perceived to be a groundbreaking film filled with subtle remarks about society and politics, it is far from the truth.
Whereas the 2017 remake is simple in comparison to Shirow's original, it still calls for your concentration and is definitely a far cry from some of the more brainless action flicks that are so easy to find at your local cinema.
In addition to this, the visual rebuff of Ghost in The shell 2017 is simply astounding and perhaps the film's strongest element. The mix of high-budget CGI and pristine costume design make it worth seeing for the spectacle alone. Drawing inspiration from films such as Robo Cop, Judge Dredd, and even Chan-wook Park's Old Boy, they manage to create a Tokyo-inspired urban environment that is grey and lifeless, whilst simultaneously oozing with carcinogenic energy.
A huge part of this comes from the wonderful selection of futuristic costumes worn throughout the movie. Whether it be Scarlett Johansson's slim, not-quite-human skin suit, or the creepily uncanny geisha-bot, the film certainly owes a debt to its costume designers.
With the addition of beautiful computer game esque cinematography, this film definitely looks amazing. Although it can't be said too often, this is a rare occasion where the IMAX 3D may actually enhance your viewing experience.
As usual, Scarlett Johansson's high-flying and empowering performance is a joy to watch. Unfortunately, with so much attention paid towards her, it's not hard to see how some of the supporting cast are sidelined. In spite of this, many of the roles add a great deal of flesh to the story. Not least by Michael Pitt's multi-layered performance as Kuze.
However, despite the standout performance by Takeshi Kitano, it remains hard to remember many significant Asian characters within the movie. Although this doesn't take away from any of the actor's performances, it does begin to suggest that the criticism aimed at the film is perhaps valid when it is so heavily based on the source material.
On That Note
On the whole, despite the stripped back plot that never properly gets out of its second act, it would be unfair to say Ghost in The Shell was anywhere near the disaster it could have been. In a world where we are increasingly dependent on technology, the film's central themes of cyborg integration and the soul are extremely relevant. Although the original may always express this on a deeper level, if you're looking for an absorbing film that is both exciting and visually stunning, then Ghost in The Shell is definitely worth checking out. Even if it is just to see Scarlett Johansson rocking an Alpha Industries jacket.
Ghost in The Shell Release Date: 30th March 2017