Transhumanist Fantasy, Ghost in the Shell, Cannot Transcend its Source, but It’s Still a Spectacle

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If you go into Ghost in the Shell expecting it to be as good as the anime, you’ll be disappointed. As a standalone film, however, it was good. At times it is even great.

First of all, let me begin by saying that Scarlet Johansson was phenomenal. I understand the controversy, and I have problems with the way race was handled in the final act, which I’ll get to later. However, it is hard to dispute Johansson’s talent here.

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It’s extremely difficult to make a high quality remake of anything. Purists will complain when the film ventures too far from its source. Critics will complain if a film doesn’t venture enough (see Zack Snyder’s Watchmen). Between the two, Sanders’ interpretation very much does the former. The film is inspired by the manga and its subsequent films, but it is almost entirely an original story. Mamoru Oshii’s film is only seen in brief homages, which were almost all present in the film’s trailers. That certainly doesn’t make it bad.

The timing for such a film is more appropriate now than ever. Set in futuristic Japan, which looks stunning, human beings are limb, liver, and eyeball deep into cybernetically enhancing themselves. The protagonist, Major, is thought to be the world’s first of her kind. That is, a human brain/soul (called a Ghost), inside a robotic body (a Shell). This was different from the original where everyone was of this sort, but I enjoyed the change. Especially when human beings right now are only beginning to experiment with cybernetic enhancements in real life. The movement, called “transhumanism”, even saw a Transhumanist Presidential candidate run in 2016. Yeah, Zoltan Istvan. Look him up.

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The real victory comes in the effects. The best shots of the film were overlooking the city-scape at night. The action was mostly fantastic, but at times was slightly hard to follow. The jerky movements of the characters was unnatural, but I understand why. Robots, duh. But it still acted to the film’s detriment at times.

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Now onto the bad. The film was pretty great throughout, but suffered from an extremely lackluster ending. This is where sticking to the original would’ve come in handy most. Also, the film’s message is unclear. Throughout, characters recite that their memories aren’t what’s important, it’s their actions that matter. It even ends on this note. The entire plot speaks to the opposite, however.

Overall, I very much enjoyed the film. Especially once I was able to look past the fact that this is not an extremely faithful adaptation. I do have a major problem though which I will explain below. Rating: 7.6/10

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Now my main complaint. WARNING SPOILERS BELOW

It’s revealed that Major’s Ghost is actually the mind of a young Japanese runaway. Why would a film that is so marred in racial controversy literally put an Asian character inside of a white woman’s body? It is unfathomable.

Ghost In The Shell Is Playing In Theaters March 31st

Ghost In The Shell- In the near future, Major (Scarlett Johansson) is the first of her kind: a human who is cyber-enhanced to be a perfect soldier devoted to stopping the world’s most dangerous criminals. When terrorism reaches a new level that includes the ability to hack into people’s minds and control them, Major is uniquely qualified to stop it. As she prepares to face a new enemy, Major discovers that she has been lied to, and her life was not saved. Instead, it was stolen.

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