(Ghost in the Shell, 2017)
The live-action remake of the anime classic.
By Jak Luke Sharp
Ghost in the Shell, directed by Rupert Sanders, is a live-action remake of the famous anime by Mamoru Oshii – also based on Shirow Masamune’s cherished manga. Before release, the film garnered huge controversy due to its casting of a white, American actress (Scarlett Johansson) playing a Japanese character. This is not the first occasion that a controversial topic like this has arisen; Hollywood is well known for white washing throughout its history – does anyone recall John Wayne playing Genghis Khan? It is an issue that continues to plague the industry and while audiences actively point out the problem, Hollywood does not seem to want to listen.
So, does Ghost in the Shell respond to the controversy with an engaging, interesting take on the original film? No. Despite brief moments of excitement at the beginning, this remake lacks the gravitas and the depth of the original. The film lacks any in-depth look at the existential questions on machines, psychology, and philosophy that were so integral to the original story. Granted, the visuals are phenomenally constructed throughout, but without an engaging narrative, what seems to be left is a dumbed down, flashy version of Blade Runner (1982). The action sequences are interesting though predictable, being what most run-of-the-mill action flicks Hollywood churns out have become – they look great, but rely on surface prettiness above serious narrative. Due to the rich intellectual property of the original anime, this film is a massive disappointment to the lasting fan-base from 1995. The writers have chosen to blend original scenes with some hand-picked straight from the page – where other adaptations have had a welcome altering of the story, think the recent The Jungle Book (2016), this adaptation, even while it aims to be original, lacks originality.
The casting of Scarlett Johansson, as a marketing scheme, is understandable. The film is trying to hit an established target audience with Marvel fans already familiar with Johansson as an ass-kicking action heroine. Though one can only imagine how casting the film with an all-Asian cast would have added to the authenticity and have a respect for the source material. While Johnasson is good, playing from her recent roles like Luc Besson’s Lucy (2014), there is still a lack of emotional depth, even while playing a cyber-enhanced character. The film also has a major issue of storytelling; the villain is horrendously underwritten and the story is incredibly bland to sit through.
Overall, what was a film tainted before release fails to regain any justification.