In the future, when cybernetic enhancement has replaced silicon enhancement and almost everyone is part robot, a cyborg named Major is dispatched to find a cyber-terrorist who is hacking the minds of the upper management of a robotics firm and soon finds herself in a mystery that not only consumes her present, but also her past.
All right… elephant in the room.
I’m sure you’ve heard at least one person complaining about this, but Scarlett Johansson, in case you haven’t noticed, isn’t Asian nor is most of the cast in this movie that originally started out as manga and anime. I’ve said it a million times, most recently when I reviewed Kubo and the Two Strings — a movie I loved that wouldn’t even allow Asian actors’ voices to appear as major characters in it. Yes, white-washing is a thing and it’s stupid and racist. There’s absolutely no reason why Asian actors can’t play Asian parts in movies influenced by Asian culture. It’s stupid and it’s racist, and its insulting — not only to Asian actors, but to the general audience who the studios assume would reject an Asian-led movie.
But, there’s nothing that can be done about it now. The movie is made and, as stupid as the white-washing is, it would be petty to hold that against it. What I would rather hold against it is the plodding and slow plot, the complete lack of chemistry between the leads, and the unnecessary dumbing down of the very philosophy that drove the Ghost in the Shell anime. The entire question of what separates humans and technology is mostly absent in this movie and that’s probably the greatest tragedy of all.
Now, before you write me off as some Ghost in the Shell fanboy, let me defend myself for a moment — I only just watched the original anime earlier this year. I don’t have any nostalgic attachments to it and, quite honestly, I’m not a fan of anime as a whole. It just doesn’t do it for me. What I liked most about the Ghost in the Shell anime was the philosophy behind it, even though it was delivered with all of the subtlety of a sledgehammer. When do you start calling a cybernectically enhanced person a robot and when can you start calling an AI a lifeform? These are real questions that can’t be answered, but playing in that gray area was something about the anime that I found very appealing.
The live action version takes that question and turns it into a very familiar story of an amnesia case looking for her past and… it’s not even comparable. It’s a compromise that not only comes off as lazy, but also doesn’t trust the audience to have the brainpower to ponder an unanswerable question.
So, not only does the people behind this movie think the audience is just as racist as they are, but they also think we’re too stupid for elementary level philosophy.
The world of Ghost in the Shell is amazing. Painstaking care was put into translating the anime to life. The buildings are alive, the skyline is a technological dream or nightmare depending on how you look at it, and some of the original movie’s scenes are recreated virtually shot-by-shot.
But, it all feels so empty and insincere. This is someone going through the motions… creating an amazing landscape and putting very little in it.
This is not a terrible movie, but it is a movie that I found myself growing bored in. Nothing seemed to really click… the performances were off, the editing was odd.
I’m not an idiot, I knew from the start that there would be changes between the anime and this movie, but what I don’t understand is why Hollywood will remake something without improving it in some way. Sure, you can argue that they were bringing Ghost in the Shell to a larger audience that perhaps haven’t heard of it before, but this version is so underwhelming, you almost have to ask why they even bothered with that.