Before I begin 1. Spoilers and 2. Let me show you something. Up until 5 mins before showtime I was only person in the theater. I don’t know how this bowls well for the films box office. Going into this film I decided to judge it on it’s own merit for at least the first part of the review. I’m going to have to make some comparisons later on because this adaption keeps making reference to the 1995 film
The supporting cast comes off well and were good in their mostly minor roles(Aside from Bato I’m don’t remember any of the other member of section nine names!). Beat Kinada as the “Chief” gave the role the gravitas it needed. The cast was smaller than you think. But this film raises or falls depending on the main leads so let’s look at them.
THE VILLAINS: The head of the corporation was one note and we didn’t get an idea of his motivation. He just seemed to be evil just because. The first villain was a bit better. It’s obvious aspects of him were inspired by the “PUPPET-MASTER” from the 95 film. At least we got to know his motivation. It would’ve been nice if the film had shown some flashback of him to further flesh out his character. Unfortunately he’s not that interesting and because we don’t get to learn more about him and his connection with Motoko/Major his character is wasted.
The Major: Considering the storyline Scarlett Johanson seem too still in the role. I know she’s supposed to be confused and questioning her humanity and purpose but I get the feeling in some scenes she’s supposed to be displaying a particular emotion and instead her performance comes off stilted and empty. Plus the “Major” never seemed to have a commanding presence or strong tactical mind that she does in her previous iterations. For example in the 1995 film while she does question how much of her is human or artificial she felt like a a fully realized character. She felt more on the ball in the comics, tv series, ova’s and animated films. While some of this can be blamed on the writing and direction, I think a bus of the blame has to go on Johanson herself. I’ve seen this happen with her in other films and I can only assume by now that the strength of her performances hinges on how well she’s directed.
For the most part it’s not remarkable. I didn’t really pay attention to the score except for 3 times. The beginning of the film and the mid point where there were trying to make music that sounded reminiscent to the 95 film but it was it’s own thing. That was until the end credits where they played “MAKING OF ANDROID”(from the 1995 film). I laughed when I heard that. Why have it in at all? It would’ve made more sense to play that at the very beginning(you know when they were MAKING THE ANDROID)but the film-makers probably felt they wouldn’t have been able to get away with that. They probably would think people would say that their just redoing the 95 film and not trying anything new. Which leads me to -
RECREATING SCENES AND NOT DOING ANYTHING NEW:
Before seeing the film I assumed that most of the recreated scenes from the trailers was only for the trailers. Used as a way to drum up excitement from the GITS fans which would then make the average person want to see the film. NOPE. I was wrong. I don’t know why used them here if your going to have a different story. I suppose an argument could be made that those scenes can be put into any film but they wont mean as much when you remove the original context that they appeared in. For example let’s say that Spider-Man: Homecoming uses that famous scene from “KRAVEN’S LAST HUNT”(Fearful Symmetry). It would still be a good scene but it meant more in the original story because of what was on the for Peter. He spent 2 weeks digging out of the earth to get back to his wife, his family. In that story Pete had everything to live for and Kraven felt he had nothing to live for.
Anyway the recreated scenes seemed to be there mostly because the director wasn’t creative enough to make something that rivals it. Also they were trying to placate to the 95 films fans. It comes off a bit patronizing though. That’s not to say that having these scenes are a bad thing I mean just look at CAPTAIN AMERICA:CIVIL WAR. Everyone running at each other and the climax with Cap Blocking Tony’s blasts. These were from the comics and worked because the Russo’s were able to create the great scenes.
THE STORY, WRITING & DIRECTOR:
The Major tries to rediscover her past and villain’s company tries to stop her meanwhile fashioning her into the perfect weapon. A pretty rote story. It also doesn’t challenge the audience. Occasionally the story would try to sound deep by talking about ghost but it was mainly only on a surface level. I can’t say that I’m surprised, that’s why I assume why Rupert Sanders is the director. If the studio was interested in a nice looking action film then yeah he can do that. If they were also interested in a director that wanted to go into the science and philosophical elements of the source material then they would’ve gone after directors like Neil Blomcamp, the Wachowski’s, Christopher Nolan or Darren Aronofsky.
Story and writing wise there were story points and motivations that weren’t elaborated on. Leaving some story threads hanging to have the audience think after the film is over can be good, except when a good number of the threads are left hanging.
One thing I did do that I normally don’t was check out the cast list on IMDB. I knew Paramount had made a mad dash to hire as many asian actors as possible after the uh, controversy from last year(you can check my GHOST IN THE SHELL WHITE WASHING Editorial on what I’m talking about). I saw that Scarlett Johanson was playing the “MAJOR” but a asian actress was playing MOTOKO (aka the Major). Before going in I wondered if Motoko would die in the beginning and then Scarlett play her thru the rest of the movie. Or would Scarlett play the Major thru the film and then get blown up at the end of the film and then her ghost is put into another body and the asian actress would be Motoko/Major going forward. Sadly it’s the former. If it were the latter then it would’ve been more interesting and thrown the audience for a loop. Also it would then have an asian actress as the lead of a major(wink, wink) Hollywood film franchise. It would be a win/win. We don’t get that and we also barely see the asian actress much less her face for more than 5 seconds.
CGI, COSTUMING, EFFECTS:
The overall world design was amazing. Unlike with other parts of the film the film-makers did try to be different from the source material. In the comics and animation the world was futuristic bout still grounded. The costuming and make up effects was on point. Also the CGI and practical effects mix was so good that I just bought the “Art of Ghost In The Shell 2017 art book” and yes you can get it from me if you can pry it from my cold dead hands! The 2017 film went balls out and for the most part the cgi was great. Another great bit was when the Major was going on her deep dive it reminded me of the “SUNKEN PLACE” from “GET OUT”. I felt a bit unnerved by it. As far as negatives, occasionally the cgi and or action was shoddy. Ex. during the fight with the spider-tank there were times the major didn’t look believable. Also when the Major is captured there’s a fight in the dark where there’s quick flashes of light and you can’t see anything! It rendered the entire fight pointless. One final thing right after that fight the villain’s look didn’t come off well. His cgi looked unfinished. As did when he took off part of the major’s face.
RECOMMEND - NO
It’s funny after I seeing the film I thought is was okay and fun enough. A mild recommend. The thing is the more I think about the film the I don’t like it. This film hinges on 2 things, Scarlett Johanson’s acting and the writing/story. The story isn’t as smart as it thinks it is and didn’t flesh out the characters or further elaborate on important story points. I remember watching Jeremy Johns and other critics reviews and them saying that if your a fan or know about the source material you’ll enjoy this film. I disagree. I’m a fan of this franchise and I believe that adaptions are more for the mass audience than the fans of the source material. Movie studios uses the original fandom as a way to fan the flames or rather free promotion. They can’t just rely on the original fandom to make a profitable film. So they need to do things in the film that the general audience would be interested in. I mean come on it’s not as if the general audience after seeing the film will then pick up the source material. Believe me I’m a comic book and animation fan.
While I don’t recommend this film I do hope it’s successful. If it is then hopefully studios will learn from their mistakes and when they adapt other Japanese Manga & Anime they’ll be better. At least here the studio and film-makers tried to make a good movie unlike with “DRAGONBALL EVOLUTION”.
One last thing. If you are considering on seeing this film or have seen this film whether you liked it or not please go and watch 1995 original. It’s under 90mins(82 a quick sit) it’s available on dvd and blu-ray now. It has great visuals. A great story and even if you don’t like it you can talk about it with your friends for hours and it will make you think. If after seeing your still interested then check out the other media of it. I give a run down of it in my previous post. The comic book is good but it goes back and forth from a serious to lighter tone.