GHOST IN THE SHELL
FILM REVIEW - GHOST IN THE SHELL
Running Length: 106 minutes
Release Date: 30th March 2017
Directed by: Rupert Sanders
Cast: Scarlett Johansson, Takeshi Kitano, Michael Pitt, Pilou Asbæk
Screenplay by: Jamie Moss, William Wheeler
Cinematography: Jess Hall
``Jumps from cool fantasy to eye-rolling mess``
Scarlett Johannson has shrugged off the indie cred of her early career for some very lucrative blockbuster work. Since 2010 her resumé is dominated with big-budget sci-fi, and it’s been a very mixed bag; from the good (Jonathan Glazer’s unsettling Under the Skin) and the bad (The Avengers) to the very, very ugly (Luc Besson’s turgid Lucy). But if you thought the role of Marvel’s Black Widow was the epitome of cheesecake, then Ghost in the Shell finds new ways of lowering the bar. Nothing is required of Johansson besides filling out tight black leather and running around in a nippleless nude body suit (birthday suit?).
Here Johannson plays Major, special operative for a non-descript anti-cyber terrorist unit. In this near-future cyber enhancement is commonplace, but Major is unique. Hers is the first human brain successfully transferred into a synthetic body, and she is suffering a personality crisis. When another cybernetic hybrid called Kuze (Michael Pitt) starts using hacked androids to murder scientists, Major discovers that her past is not all that she was led to believe.
Pilou Asbæk (a yellow pack Michael Shannon) looks ridiculous enough to start with – all parachute pants, peroxide flat-top and 1980s shoulder pads – but then poor Asbæk suffers the humiliation of having a pair of massive camera lenses stuck onto his eye sockets for the entire second half of the film. And no one points and laughs. At least Johansson has the decency to help him avoid bumping into the set.
The average Scooby Doo villain has more depth and motivation than Peter Ferdinando’s big baddie, so it’s just as well that his participation is kept to the last 20 minutes. Ferdinando’s appearance coincides with the point where Ghost in the Shell jumps from cool fantasy to eye-rolling mess. It’s probably a by-product of film-making by committee, but Hollywood scribes have a serious problem with resolving what they have started with any sense of credibility.
However, the bulk of Ghost in the Shell isn’t bad. The Matrix borrowed heavily from Mamoru Oshii’s original 1995 anime, and this live-action remake returns the favour. Director Rupert Sanders handles the action commendably, even if nothing here is truly up to the calibre of the Wachowskis’ seminal sci-fi classic.
With the exception of the aforementioned Asbæk, the art direction is stunning throughout. 35 years on and Blade Runner is still the go-to aesthetic for all things futuristic, and Syd Mead‘s influential work is all over the overcrowded neon cityscapes dominated by oppressive animated billboards.
The soulless story might leave you colder than an android sheep, but Ghost in the Shell never looks less than spectacular.