Ghost In The Shell: A Study In Scarlett

Based on the critically-acclaimed Manga and the subsequent anime: in the not too distant future, Major (Scarlett Johansson) is the first of her kind. She was a human collected from a tragic crash, who is then cyber-enhanced and built into a a living weapon to stop the world’s most dangerous criminals. Terrorism has reached its prime, and only those enhanced like Major can stop it. When terrorists have mind-hacking abilities, you know your in for it. Whilst she prepares to face a new threat, she finds out she’s been deceived. Her life was not saved, but stolen. Now she must find out what happened and bring those responsible to justice.

I want to get one thing straight, this film is not another example of Hollywood whitewashing. After watching the original film, I couldn’t help think about the whiteness of many of the characters, including its blue-eyed lead character Motoko (Major in this) and her blonde-haired sidekick Batou. It’s no secret that the design of a lot of anime characters are heavily influenced by the archetypal image of Western inhabitants. The design of the characters just looks like another way in which the East manifests its idolisation of the Western look. With Iron Fist and Ghost in the Shell, it seems westerners are losing their marbles at Hollywood not casting a stereotype. And unto Hollywood (this time), I say good show!

Scarlett Johansson plays Major in the remake of Ghost In The Shell
(Ghost In The Shell, Paramount Pictures)

This remake has extracted and remodelled the soul of the original, though it lacks the philosophical and thought-provoking concepts we were witness to in its predecessor. Rather than being a thread of philosophical arguments in a futuristic world, director Rupert Sanders and the writers have made an action science fiction-thriller, and a bloody good one at that. Respecting the 1995 classic, this is an intelligent movie that might just give the anti-remake ideology running riot through geekdom the middle finger. I really liked the original, and I really like this one too. And like the original, they have a postmoderny aura about them.

Where this film falters are with its supporting characters. Other than Batou (Pilou Asbæk), I did not care for the supporting cast. They gave good yet quite forgettable performances. Han, played by Chin Han (Marco Polo) is an excellent actor yet he did not contribute to the story at all. You don’t cast someone like Chin Han and waste him like that! For most of the time, I kept thinking that these characters were the equivalent of the those extra pointless sentences you put into an essay to meet the word count. At least with those extra sentences, they serve a function, unlike the supporting cast. In addition, Aramaki (Beat Takeshi Kitano) didn’t really do anything for me, not until the end where he fights a certain someone.

Game Of Thrones’ Pilou Asbæk plays Batou in Ghost In The Shell
(Ghost In The Shell, Paramount Pictures)

It’s impossible not to see the parallels between this film and our own world, as humanity quickly becomes more and more internet/technology-reliant. This is depicted really well in both the original and the remake, as well as other works like Wall-E and Nineteen Eighty-Four. The theme of dystopia is well-constructed through VFX and great cinematography (Jess Hall). This brutal corporation-run future is furthermore made more emotional via an eye-wateringly brilliant musical score, a score I will certainly be listening to time and time again in the imminent future. “If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face—for ever” is from Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four and this film shows there’s method to this quote’s madness.

Ghost in the Shell’s best moments are the ones where Scar-Jo (Avengers Assemble) is centre stage. It’s impossible to argue that she can’t do action. She knows how to do action scenes and she does them so well, having apt practice as Natasha Romanoff in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. She’s a badass as Nat and she’s a badass as Major, with my favourite scenes of the film being the ghost on the water and the first hallway scene. Throughout all the action scenes in this film, I was on the edge of my seat. One could argue that’s the idea of action, but not all action is engaging.The action in this film is honed in and concentrated, not wishy washy, clunky or manic, like in many franchise movies today. Ahem! Fast and Furious, Transformers. Ahem!

Major (Scarlett Johansson) smashing through glass in 3D is really something
(Ghost In The Shell, Paramount Pictures)

From the sets to the score to the general aesthetic look of this film, Ghost In The Shell isn’t as terrible as many are making it out to be. If you have a couple of hours to spare, I say go down to the cinema to check it out. If not, it would not be the end of the world if you caught it when it premieres on Sky Movies in a few months time.

A good old popcorn flick with a fruitful flair for the post-postmodern