Ok, it wasn’t as bad as I had feared, but it still wasn’t good enough to stand up to Mamoru Oshii’s 1995 film of the same name. That film was great! It is an animated film that was fluid, filled with detail and some beautiful scenes without dialogue. A film (and previously a manga) based upon some deep issues.
We are in the near future and technology has advanced so much that it has blurred the line between man and machine. That technology is used for the first time successfully to create Major (Scarlett Johansson – Lost in Translation, Iron Man 2). She has been cyber enhanced and now is part of an elite and secret police division working in Section 9. The perfect crime fighting man/machine as her physical body can always be repaired by Dr. Ouelet (Juliet Binoche – The English Patient, Clouds of Sils Maria), her creator.
Major is needed more than ever when it seems like a terrorist has gained the upper hand. It now seems like someone is able to hack into the minds of humans in order to control them. While chasing the mysterious Kuze (Michael Pitt – from television’s Boardwalk Empire), Major discovers that she has been lied to her whole existence. She was not saved, rather her life was stolen from her. Her life and her memories. Now she is going to try to figure out who she was.
Many of the central themes of the original manga or animated film have been dumbed down here. The script has been rendered rather generic and not rich like the original film. That one asked plenty of philosophical questions. Here we never really truly delve into the ethics of AI or human body enhancements. Most things are oversimplified. Including the bad guys which makes them much less threatening (and interesting). Hollywood screenwriters seem incapable of producing scripts that are complex and stories that are involved.
Another weak aspect is the acting. Now, Scarlett Johansson is very nice to look at, but her acting skill is very much in question. Even though as Major she is not required to show much emotion (which helps her as she tends towards wooden in most films) she is still not up to the demands of the character. At times I was thinking that Johansson believed the title of the film to be Empty Shell.
Plenty of the extras are really good in the film. By extras I mean like soundtrack and cinematography. A definite plus is the way the film looks. Director Rupert Sanders (Snow White and the Huntsman) has proven over his short career that he can produce films which look great, but has yet to make one in which the story equals the visuals. The cinematography is amazing but the story leaves something to be desired. Working hand in hand with the visuals is the soundtrack. It is good. Partners with the dark and dreary world visually created.
-Hard-Wired Humanity: Making Ghost in the Shell
-Section 9: Cyber Defenders
-Man & Machine: The Ghost Philosophy