Ghost in the Shell has attracted some unwanted attention recently, sparking debate about the whitewashing in Hollywood – especially amongst Asian roles. The film is based on the manga serial by Masamune Shirow and later anime series by Mamoru Oshii, all of which have the same name. However, the movie had very few Japanese members of cast – with Scarlet Johansson taking the lead role. This is also not to be confused or connected with Lucy or Her; other Scarlet Johansson pictures where she plays cyborg type characters.
The movie follows Major, played by Johansson, after her soul has been recovered from her post-shipwreck body and implanted into an android. Major has similar enhancements to the other futuristic cyborgs, but her human soul makes her the ultimate weapon in the government’s artillery. Aside from her soul another noticeable difference between Major and all the other cyborgs and androids is her choice of, or lack there of, attire. It appears director, Rupert Sanders, couldn’t bare not to include this strange and quite awkwardly placed eroticism throughout the picture.
The government team led by Aramarki, played by Takeshi Kitano, fights cyber crime including the new popular crime in that era of hacking the human mind. We get to follow the team working a complex case against a mysteriously powerful hacker. Throughout the investigations Major experiences “glitches”…the ghost in the shell. However there is a lack of urgency about these glitches as they don’t appear to be putting Major in any immediate danger.
As the story unfolds the impending plot twist becomes more and more predictable and Major’s seemingly indestructible nature detracts from the audiences connection with the character. I think Johansson had an extremely hard job with this character because there was no character development in this movie. And I would not say this was a screenplay flaw, but simply due to the nature of the film and how the story needed to evolve.
Johansson had the hard task of connecting with the audience as a human, whilst at the same time displaying her android mannerisms. I think she delivered a solid performance with what she had at her disposal – however she standardly performs well as a heroine. But, when I compare her performance to Alicia Vidaker’s Ex-Machina I start to see the many imperfections in Johansson’s performance.
The supporting male and female leads delivered solid performances and the score fit seamlessly into the picture which is always a good thing. This film had a huge budget and that was apparent in the retro-style, futuristic world that the producers created. Each scene was carefully curated to closely match the originals, something hardcore fans will definitely appreciate.
Overall, the film was easily digestible and highly entertaining to watch both acoustically and visually. I feel that the audience is more likely to remain engaged with the surrounding world than the actual storyline due to its predictability. There were some light flaws with the graphics in certain scenes and more character development in the second half of the film could have pushed this one a notch higher.
Director: Rupert Sanders
Starting: Scarlett Johansson, Pilou Asbæk, Takeshi Kitano, Juliette Binoche and Michael Pitt