In this live action remake of the 1995 anime manga classic ‘Ghost In The Shell’, Scarlett Johansson plays the lead role of Major. Her mind encased inside a cybernetic body, she is plagued by echoes of her human past whilst chasing cyber criminals intent on bringing the world to its knees.
As with its Japanese original, this ‘Ghost In The Shell’ explores similar territory to Paul Verhoeven’s seminal ‘RoboCop’. However, whereas ‘RoboCop’ was laced with a wicked subtext and a critique about modern-day consumerism, this fetching, CGI-laden remake does not.
Surrounded by a cast that includes Juliette Binoche, Michael Wincott and legendary actor / director Takeshi Kitano, Scarlett Johansson and her fellow actors all suitably look the part but are starved of decent dialogue or a script. For looking and sounding as great as it does, this remake feels like a computer game cut-scene, floating above a plot that neither grips nor excites.
That said, at least visually speaking, ’Ghost in The Shell’ is a richly textured movie. Boasting a beautifully realised world, there’s a lot to admire here if you glance down its alleyways. Possibly caught in that familiar trap of being too faithful to its comic source, this ‘Ghost In The Shell’ remake feels like a retelling rather than a re-imagining of the 1995 original. Also by comparison to the movies that the original inspired (i.e. ‘The Matrix’), this remake feels heavily reliant on its attractiveness rather than a story grippingly told.
... the line between the real world and the cybernetic is an interestingly blurred one.
For like the original, the line here between the real world and the cybernetic is an interestingly blurred one. Cosmetic enhancements and physical upgrades are now commonplace and Major is the latest incarnation of human flesh meeting cutting-edge technology. However, devoid of any real threat or menace, Scarlett Johansson’s efforts feel undermined by ’Ghost in The Shell’s’ attention to style and scenery. As a lone ambassador to character acting, it falls to a suitably crinkly Takeshi Kitano to deliver the movie’s best lines (all unapologetically in Japanese) – but then if you consider his Yakuza movies, (somewhat wisely) nobody ever tells that man what to do.
So, in terms of a worthwhile cinema visit, like ‘Gravity’ before it, ‘Ghost in The Shell’ works as a visual treat. Seen on the largest screen possible (IMAX) with all its 3D bells and whistles blowing, it will provide you with suitable eye-candy for its 2-hour running time. However, if you’re looking for something a little more grounded in plot, story and characterisation, you might want to wait for ‘Blade Runner: 2049’ which promises a darker, more dramatic vision of the future.