Ghost in the Shell
Film Review and Brief Discussion
Halfway through this work I wasn’t sure if wanted to hate it or love it. That is, having no notion or clue about the original anime on which it was based. A fact I was totally unaware of and which I’ll momentarily set aside for the sake of this review and return to at the end. I’ll be addressing the film as a standalone creation since, in my mind, an artistic offering like this should be able to stand on its own regardless of any preexisting related works.
The story centers on the notion of transhumanism which involves the bionic transformation of humans into something above and beyond our current capability and existence. It’s a futuristic concept that’s not often cinematically addressed, although some films do come to mind, but I’ll get to those later. Regardless, it’s something our own real world is inching ever so slowly towards through research and experimentation; yet the movie’s own tagline regarding “the near future” might be a bit of a stretch methinks.
Characters which’ve been transformed in some form or fashion are plentiful in this brave new world of hyper-consumerist imagery. I suppose if it weren’t for the fact that Hong Kong was the centralized background character of the original story then NYC’s Times Square, Tokyo’s Shibuya or any other up and coming billboard laden metropolitan neighborhood of the world could’ve been just as good. The thing of it is that the film showers the viewer with an amazing array of visuals displaying what our future may very well look like. Giant holograms dot the city skyline in flagrant fashion; and considering how some of our major cities appear today, with their billboards of millions of neon and LED lights, this distant future isn’t too far off the mark.
So, bearing in mind what’s in store for our future cityscapes the film does a bang-up job of conveying our future reality. Yet it’s that very thing that hurts the film. ‘Ghost in the Shell’ is at times visually stunning, and yet simultaneously overcooked with CGI effects in its yearning to exhibit its vision. It could’ve reached stylish perfection if not for all the artificiality and unfortunately, half the city has this plastic looking feel about it. Something which at times feels absurd and which takes away from the central characters who, in my mind, should be shining bright! If only the film makers, animators and special effects artists were able to find themselves a better halfway point. What comes to mind is Avatar which beautifully illustrates how the well real world can mesh with the animated one. Another film to consider would be Blade Runner with its dark and amazing urban settings; all sans the slightest use of CGI. Though quite possibly, I’m treading too far since this film is in a class by itself and comparisons might be unfair.
Beyond all this discussion on the merits of the film’s graphics, sets and displays, there’s the matter of dialogue and character, or the lack thereof. Both of which I didn’t think too much of. Scarlett Johansson’s acting was way too wooden for my taste and the words exchanged throughout felt like they came straight out of a comic book; then again, there’s the matter of the original Anime and how this film aimed to recreate it. I was able to get a glance at some key scenes from that 1995 animated version and it’d seem that this present day live action version should please plenty of die-hard fans. At least that’s the impression I’ve gotten as well from reading many of the online comments posted here and there.
All in all this wasn’t a horrible film. It wasn’t even half bad. It simply wasn’t the spectacle I feel it could’ve been.
BTW, I thought I’d mention a couple of other films and sources I’ve seen concerning transhumanism to some extent or another.
– Terminator Genisys, 2015 – starring Arnold Schwarzenegger and other stars
– Transcendence, 2014 – starring Johnny Depp
– The Matrix, 1999 – starring Keannu Reeves amongst other stars
– The Lawnmower Man, 1992 – starring Jeffy Fahey and Pierce Brosnan
– ‘and there’s Isaac Arthur’s Youtube channel at which he has a number of videos focusing on the subject.