DIR: Rupert Sanders • WRI: Jamie Moss, William Wheeler, Ehren Kruger • PRO: Ari Arad, Michael Costigan, Steven Paul • DOP: Jess Hall • ED: Billy Rich, Neil Smith • DES: Jan Roelfs • MUS: Lorne Balfe, Clint Mansell • CAST: Scarlett Johansson, Juliette Binoche, Rila Fukushima
Seems these days that the bigger the fanfare the more likely the film is going to bomb, creatively that is, not financially. Our good friends at DC have proven a few times now, that marketing can and does sell duds. I have a feeling Dreamwork’s adaptation of Masamune Shirow’s cyberpunk manga and anime classic will fare similarly.
After suffering terrible injuries, apparently at the hands of terrorists, Major’s (Scarlett Johansson) brain is successfully encased in a cyborg body. All thanks to the Hanka corporation (read evil in there). One year later and she walks the beat with fellow officers of Section 9 as they police the futuristic city of Neo-Tokyo; a place where cyborg enhancements are all the rage. And why not?
Quickly into the mix enters a mysterious terrorist, Hideo Kuze (Michael Pitt), who may have answers that will lead Major to learning the truth about who she really is. Some vague cat-and-mouse detective work follows and we get to learn who her confederates are and who her enemies are and some other stuff, like Yakuza gangsters’ love of body enhancement.
Despite its sci-fi elements and cyber nods this is a cop movie and it certainly owes a debt to Blade Runner, as did its source material. Though attractively realised, the story feels perfunctory, superficial and lacking any depth or complexity in its plot or characters. Nothing seems to be at stake, it all feels as artificial as Major’s cyborg casing and more than a little familiar with its old-school evil corporation abusing its power scenario. Amidst the set pieces, it raises questions of soul and identity but fails to develop them to any satisfactory level.
The cast do their best with the material; it is hard to know how to rate Scarlett Johansson’s low-key performance, she looks fine in the part but really does not have much to do other than be dour, throw out the odd insult and beat people up in that sexy way we expect of cyborg heroines. On hand to lend a bit of authenticity and make some small recompense for casting a Westerner in the lead role, is Takeshi Kitano as her boss Aramaki; the only major Japanese character in the film. Kitano spends most of his time sitting down, speaking Japanese. Whilst doing very little, he manages to steal every scene he is in.
Ghost in the Shell moves along smoothly and hits the required moments of action along the way. It serves as a passable bit of movie fare, that feels like it time travelled from the ’90s and picked up some lavish special effects on the way, but never seems comfortable in its own shell.
15A See IFCO for details
Ghost in the Shell is released 31st March 2017