This March seems to be the month for remaking animated classics into live-action films. First, we had Beauty and the Beast, and now, this weekend, we are getting a live-action version of the anime classic Ghost in the Shell. Both films are decent watches but nowhere near as memorable as their original works. In the case of Ghost in the Shell, the visual spectacle is there, and it is entertaining as an action movie, but it falls short in giving the deeper messages and themes of the original anime.
The biggest positive of Ghost in the Shell is the striking visuals. Director Rupert Sanders has created a dystopian Hong Kong that reminded me a lot of Blade Runner. It is eerie, and I loved the way the skyline was both dark and brightly colored at the same time.There are also many shots from the anime which are recreated, like Major diving off of the skyscraper in the opening scene.
Also, I loved the design of the various robots. For example, we get to see a geisha robot in the trailer ,but it is even cooler when it is in the movie. All the production design, sets, props, and special effects are stunning and help you feel immersed in the story.
I also enjoyed the action, which is well staged and engaging to watch. This version of the story is basically a superhero movie. The plot is completely different than the original anime—subbing out its story of hunting down hackers for a superhero revenge plot. In this aspect, Scarlett Johansson was perfect for the role of Major with her comic book/action experience.
But that brings me to my negatives. Many are upset with Ghost in the Shell because of the whitewashing of the character of Major and others. Naturally, the anime features Japanese characters, and most of the actors in this film are Caucasian. However, in the movie’s defense, most of the characters are robots, which technically can be any race their makers want them to be.
My bigger problem with Major was the choice to turn her story into a fairly generic superhero story. The film improves after a dull first 30 minutes, but it’s all pretty standard action/superhero movie stuff. It’s entertaining on that level, but it doesn’t ask the questions about humanity and existence that the original anime does so powerfully.
I also felt the side characters were underused and bland with exception of her boss who was pretty cool. But characters like Batou, who are so great in the original, aren’t as memorable here.
I particularly missed the bittersweet ending of the original film. Movies like that leave you thinking long after you see them. They have layers with complex questions of good versus evil. Unfortunately, that just isn’t the case with this version of Ghost in the Shell. It’s entertaining as a pretty action movie but really nothing more than that.
But at least it’s got that going for it. In the end, if you want to see a well-made superhero movie, then this version of Ghost in the Shell is not a bad watch. If you are hoping for something deeper, watch the original anime film.
Edited by: Kajsa Rain Forden