Scarlett Johansson and Takeshi Kitano in one film? Count me in. I am talking about the live-action adaptation of Ghost in the Shell (dir. Rupert Sanders), based on the manga of the same name written by Masamune Shirow.
Ghost in the Shell is set in a nearby future where cybernetics has progressed incredibly. People and cyborgs co-exist in a cyber-punk setting located in a Pan-Asian international city with multiple religions and races. In my opinion, it actually represents more Hong Kong by night with its neon-lights, busy steamy streets, and colossal and crowded apartment complexes. In the cyber-punk metropolis, technology is everywhere. There is an extreme saturation of visuals, as holograms become the new advertisements that overwhelm the streets and sky of the city.
The film presents Major Mira Killian played by Scarlett Johansson, a cyborg police agent who works for the anti-terrorist bureau Section 9. She is the first of her kind – with a human brain (her ghost) and her cyber body (the shell) that enhances her physical performance. She and her team lead by Chief Daisuke Aramaki (Takeshi Kitano) have to find Hideo Kuze (Michael Pitt), a cyber-terrorist who wants to eliminate people who work for Hanka Robotics, where Major was made. While trying to catch the terrorist, Major is confronted with the dark secrets of Hanaka Robotics and her own past, which she couldn’t remember.
Of course, this film is also subjected to critics on the whitewashing controversy, stating that Major should have been played by a Japanese actress. The idea that Major was built with the appearance of a Western person is a little problematic, as it implies that beauty, aspiring future and security (remember she is an agent) have to resemble a Western figure. Another issue for me is that for a story set in a Pan-Asian metropolis, there are few Pan-Asian persons.
Besides the whitewashing issue, this live-action film feels different than the original animation. In the live-action film, the main plot has been changed to a more romantic-self-discovery journey that fits Hollywood’s interest. Nevertheless, the live-action version does a stunning work on the visuals. You can make a wallpaper or a film poster for each of the spectacular slow-motion visuals in Ghost in the Shell. In short, the storyline is passable but the visuals are strong. Worth watching? I would give it a go while it still is in theatres. The colourful, detailed and mind-blowing graphics are worth seeing on the big screen.
Trailer | Image: © 2016 Paramount Pictures. All Rights Reserved. Provided by Film Distributors Netherlands (FDN).