'Ghost In The Shell' Reviewed: Visually Stunning But Boring, Shallow And Strikingly Tone Deaf
Ghost in the Shell might look like the source material come to life but misses all of the things that made the original so compelling.
Director: Rupert Sanders
Summary: In the near future, Major is the first of her kind: A human saved from a terrible crash, who is cyber-enhanced to be a perfect soldier devoted to stopping the world's most dangerous criminals.
There are a lot of reasons that Ghost in the Shell does not work, but for the purposes of this review we are going to skip over the casting controversy since that is an entire article unto itself and to really get into it would require a spoiler warning. That will be covered, in depth, at a later date.
The idea of taking classic animated material and adapting it into new movies with real actors is a thing that is not going away anytime soon. Disney is in the process of printing money with the remakes of their animated classics, so it was only a matter of time before someone decided it was time to tap the eastern side animation fandom. Ghost in the Shell is a classic, and since the Akira remake can't seem to get off of the ground, this is the next attempt to make it to the big screen. One of the things that made the original so compelling was that it was a very smart story that was told well. It looked into what it meant to be human in a very deep and cerebral way but this remake doesn't have such high ambitions. There is nothing worse than an idiot that thinks he's the smartest guy in the room and that is what Ghost in the Shell is. It thinks it's a lot smarter than it is, when in reality the approach to deep theme is about as shallow as a kiddie pool.
The trailers are pumping up a science fiction action movie with crazy stunts but we have once again found a marketing department that doesn't know the movie it is trying to sell. The action beats that have featured so prominently in the trailers are the only beats we really get to see. There are long moments of walking and talking that drag the pace down to a crawl. There is no logical thought put into when the various action beats happen to the point where if you've seen a single trailer for the movie you've seen most of the highlights. While those action scenes are visually well done they can be a little hard to follow at times. When there are characters that aren't constrained by basic physics it can become harder to keep track of where everyone is in the shot.
If Ghost in the Shell has one thing that is really going for it and it is the visuals. They look like the anime brought to life in dazzling special effects that walk the line of looking real and fake in a good way. The Major (Scarlett Johansson) isn't a human so the fact that she doesn't look real at times manages to work in the movies favor. It also means that any strange moments where the special effects don't really blend can be hand waved away by the hyper realism the movie is going for. As a study of just visual effects and set designs, this movie is nearly a masterpiece (and if that was all it needed to succeed it would be amazing) but the story that is wrapped around it is so problematic and boring that not even the visuals can save this movie from being dull.
Ghost in the Shell is a movie that falls apart in a truly spectacular way by the middle and fans of the source material are likely going to walk away mad. As for people who aren't familiar with the original, unfortunately they are likely going to wonder why this franchise is an iconic as it is.