Monday, April 3, 2017

Ghost in the Shell

Review by Bob Ignizio

In the near-future world of GHOST IN THE SHELL, mechanical augmentation is commonplace. However, The Major (Scarlett Johansson) is the only human to have had their brain transplanted into a completely robotic body. At least that's what she's been told. As she sets out to investigate a series of terrorist attacks on executives from the leading cybernetics company, The Major learns that there may have been earlier experiments. It also appears the story she was told about her body being damaged in a terrorist attack, thus necessitating her present condition, is not entirely factual.

That's the set-up for this live action adaptation of the Japanese manga and anime film of the same name. Although there are differences in each of the versions (not to mention the sequels and reboots the property has spawned in its native country), all iterations share similar themes about what it means to be human, the drive to achieve physical perfection at all costs, the impact of technology on society, and the ramifications of corporations having too much power.

We've certainly seen other films explore some of this territory: BLADE RUNNER, EX MACHINA, ROBOCOP. Not to mention the recent TV adaptation of 'Westworld'. Still, GHOST IN THE SHELL is a smart and satisfying sci-fi actioner in its own right, even if it sometimes feels a little too familiar.

There are both similarities and differences to the 1995 anime version (the only other take on the material I'm familiar with). The most publicized of these was the decision to cast a white actress in the lead role. Ostensibly this was to improve the film's chances at the box office, but so far that doesn't appear to have worked out so well.

On a story level, various details of the near future society and certain plot points have been changed, as well. Some might describe this as "dumbing down" the material, but it makes for a more streamlined, easy to follow film than the anime. Besides, there's still more food for thought here than in most big budget sci-fi/action flicks. 2 ½ out of 4 stars.

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