Action Adaptation

'Ghost in the Shell' Film Review [Take Two]

April 4, 2017Anita X

The Ghost in the Shell remake opens with images both alluring and alien, showing star Scarlett Johansson lying on a clinical table, following a recreation of the original's famous "shelling" sequence. We discover that her character is very special. But what is it that makes her different from other humans – or is it even appropriate to call her that?

We learn that her code name is Major, and that many people – including her boss at anti-cybercrime task force Section 9, Aramaki (Takeshi Kitano) – are relying on her for a very important mission. She is different from everyone else because her brain is the only human organ she has. The rest of her body is a manufactured, next-gen creation of mega-corporation Hanka Robotics. This is where the title of the movie comes from; she is the human ghost in the synthetic shell that Hanka has built for her.

The assassination of a key Hanka employee at a business meeting by a creepy Geisha robot flaunts the marvels that the Major can accomplish with her artificial body. This sets into motion the mission where the Major and her trusted partner, fellow Section 9 operative Batou (played by Johansson's Lucy co-star, Pilou Asbæk), fight to stop a terrorist (Michael Pitt) from decimating the ranks of Hanka's top executives. The true identity of this terrorist – known only as Kuze – persists to be a mystery, as well as his motives. Why is it that the Geisha leaves the Major with the ominous message not to cooperate with Hanka Robotics?

Director Rupert Sanders and screenwriters Jamie Moss and William Wheeler lead viewers through some magnificent and dazzling CGI visions of the postmodern world that the Major and her colleagues live in. Colorful skyscrapers light up the futuristic city skyline amidst towering holograms projected into the sky. Airborne highways are contrasted with busy slums occupying the shadows beneath the buildings. It lets us imagine what our own cities could possibly look like in the future. No detail is spared, and the vibrant aesthetics of the movie is a visual treat.

Ghost in the Shell is well-paced, with Johansson bringing just the right amount of emotion to a body that is merely a vestige of her character's former self – one that had memories and an identity. As today's AI is evolving and the fantasy of artificially-assisted human intelligence becomes a reality, the movie explores the questions of what makes us human, and what is a robot?

Does it make the Major less human because she has lost her memories? Is her identity her own, or is it simply an extension of what Hanka envisioned her to be? In the end, the Major discovers that the answers she seeks have been within her all along – that "we cling to our memories as if they define us, but it's what we do that defines us."

Ghost in the Shell releases March 31st, 2017 from Paramount Pictures. The film has an MPAA rating of PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence, suggestive content and some disturbing images. Its runtime is 1 Hr. 46 Mins.

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