Full disclosure up top. I have never seen the original anime of ‘Ghost in the Shell’ but have only heard great things about how inventive and thought-provoking it was at the time of its release and that I holds up quite well. It reached a point where it didn’t make sense to me to watch the original so close to this remake so I chose to go in with no point of reference other than the previous work of everyone involved. Rupert Sanders chose to helm this remake as his follow up to ‘Snow White and the Huntsmen’ and brought Scarlett Johansson along for the ride as the lead.
From the jump it is clear that ‘Ghost’ is a beautifully designed film with incredible detail in every set and massive CGI pieces filling in the background. The production design and costuming throughout give the audience a real sense of this future world with massive interactive advertisements not too dissimilar from ‘Blade Runner’ and vehicles and outfits that scream neo-punk coolness. Unfortunately, this is almost all I have to say about ‘Ghost’ that is positive.
From beginning to end ‘Ghost’ plays like a film struggling with what it wants to be and say. Sanders chooses to start off with a somewhat slower pace not unlike most sci-fi flicks but ignores the world-building and exposition of in-world rules that are necessary in this genre. Crafting a beautiful set with wonderfully designed characters filling it is not the same as telling me how this future world is different from the world I live in. I don’t mean to sound like I need my hand held for two hours or so but not knowing the name of any character other than Scarlett Johansson’s Major and Juliette Binoche’s Dr. Ouelet is a problem to me.
This is a story about Major, a mercenary or a cop (maybe) who works for some sort of a company (I think so, but couldn’t tell you their name) who are going after some bad folks who have ties to another company (I think this one was called Hanka). This mission or series of small missions (unclear on this as well) lead to discoveries about Major’s past that force her to question her allegiances. Sort of. Oh yeah! Major is just a human brain in a robot body. That’s important too I guess.
I consider myself a pretty savvy movie-goer as I choose to spend ungodly amounts of money each year on tickets and choose to keep a money-losing blog online so I can craft together terrible reviews that no one will read but I still have so many questions about this flick. This unusual pacing is made even more confusing when you realize that the runtime here is only 107 minutes. The entire time I felt that there were significant sequences that were trimmed for runtime purposes and entire scenes removed. This happens often but usually takes place when studios are trying to get a three hour film down to a more digestible length which isn’t the case here. Many of my complaints would likely have been solved with more story on screen and I have no qualms with sitting through a film that runs well over two hours.
All of these issues are made worse with the rushed conclusion of this film that breaks the streak of great CGI that preceded it and wraps an action sequence that is meant to provoke an emotional reaction but falls flat since I care very little about any character involved. Also, only white characters are given meaninful roles or sensical dialogue. And SPOILER: Major is literally a Japanese woman who had her body replaced with Scarlett Johansson’s. I’m not one to comment on white-washing controversies often as much smart people than I have written countless words on this but this can’t be ignored. This is the most outrageous instance of leaning into an audience complaint or controversy I think I have ever seen. You know that this is likely the case from the opening text but the concrete reveal left me with a worse taste in my mouth than I otherwise would have had. Don’t see this. Watch the anime instead. Good day.