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'Ghost in the Shell' 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Review: A sleek sci-fi tale that doesn't surpass the original

July 25, 2017Ben MK

From movies like Akira to television shows like Neon Genesis Evangelion, the landscape of Japanese animation is dotted with sci-fi tales anchored by philosophical underpinnings worthy of a post-graduate thesis. Of course, one of the best-known examples has got to be Mamoru Oshii's 1995 cult classic, Ghost in the Shell, from which director Rupert Sanders' new, live-action version draws its inspiration.

Also influenced by Masamune Shirow's like-titled manga, this 2017 iteration of Ghost in the Shell follows the cyborg heroine known as Major (Scarlett Johansson), leader of elite cybercrime-fighting unit Section 9, whose flawless, synthetic exterior is but a vessel for the damaged human soul within. Gifted with a second chance at life and tasked with doling out justice in a futuristic metropolis, the Major finds herself grappling with an identity crisis when she goes up against Kuze (Michael Pitt), an elusive terrorist whose violent actions dredge up her tragic past.

What follows effortlessly calls to mind such sci-fi masterworks as Blade Runner and The Matrix, skillfully marrying the gritty, neo-noir cityscape of the former with the balletic, slick action sequences of the latter, and infusing the result with the bright, neon signage of Tokyo's Akihabara district for good measure. Suffice to say, the visual spectacle that ensues is worth the price of admission alone. It's when Ghost in the Shell attempts to dive even deeper down the rabbit hole of this hybridization, though, that the film sacrifices some of its sure-footing.

That said, there's nonetheless plenty to like about this latest incarnation of Ghost in the Shell, not the least of which is its outstanding international cast, which also includes 'Beat' Takeshi Kitano, Juliette Binoche and Pilou Asbæk as the Major's superior, Aramaki, her creator, Dr. Ouélet, and her loyal partner in anti-crime, Batou, respectively. As for the blowback surrounding Johansson's casting, it actually makes more sense within the context of the film than you might think. However, it's unlikely that this controversy will give up the ghost any time soon.

Ghost in the Shell arrives on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray with a sleek and sexy transfer, highlighting WETA Workshop's efforts on the film, as well as its futuristic aesthetic. Bits and bytes of data fly towards the screen; skyscrapers and ultra-modern towers fill the horizon; and the dull concrete exteriors of an aging, underlying infrastructure are contrasted with the vibrancy of multicolored, neon holograms. All in all, this is a fantastically eye-catching image made even better by the higher resolution of 4K and the wider color gamut of HDR. And that's not even counting the accompanying Dolby Atmos sound mix, which immerses viewers in the beats of the movie's electronic-tinged score, creating a lush soundscape bolstered by gunfire, explosions and fisticuffs.

Paramount's two-disc Ultra HD Blu-ray release includes an iTunes/Ultraviolet digital copy, as well as a Blu-ray copy of the film. There are no special features on the 4K disc, but the following extras can be found on the Blu-ray:

  • Hard-Wired Humanity: Making Ghost in the Shell (30:05) - A making-of documentary that covers various aspects of adapting the original manga and anime to live-action, from the production, costume and concept design, to the cast and their performances, to the stunts and visual and special effects.
  • Section 9: Cyber Defenders (11:29) - A look at the characters who comprise the film's cybercrime-fighting unit, as well as the diverse group of actors who portray them.
  • Man & Machine: The Ghost Philosophy (10:36) - A look at the underlying themes that drive the movie's narrative, and how they're personified in some of the characters.

Ghost in the Shell is available from Paramount Home Entertainment as of July 25th, 2017. The 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray features English Dolby Atmos, French, Spanish and Portuguese Dolby Digital 5.1, and English Dolby Digital 5.1 Descriptive Audio tracks. The film is presented with English, English SDH, French, Spanish and Portuguese subtitles. The total runtime is 1 Hr. 47 Mins.

* Reviewer's note: Portions of this Blu-ray review were adapted from my original review of the theatrical release, published on March 31st, 2017.

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