Rupert Sander’s Ghost in the Shell, whilst visually impressive, lacks the ghost of the works it is based on.
In a near future incredible technological advances have meant cybernetic augmentation has become rife. Humans upgrading their own bodies to be stronger, smarter, and faster. Hanka Robotics is a front runner in the field but has upped the game by creating mechanical bodies, but instead of using AI they have installed a human brain. Major Mira Killian (Scarlett Johansson) is the first success of this project, and as a result becomes an operative for Section 9. A year after her creation Major and her team are embroiled in a terrorist attack on Hanka employees, which after investigation is being led by an entity known as Kuze (Michael Pitt) who manages to evade them at every step. As attacks on key Hanka scientists and workers increase, the Major and her team face a race against time to find and stop Kuze. However Kuze knows something about Major’s past that she is unable to remember, a secret being kept from her by those around her.
Make no doubt about it, the aesthetics, set designs, and cinematography on this American adaptation of the popular Manga are everything a cyberpunk fan could ask for. The technology infused urban skylines, futuristic hustle and bustle of its Hong Kong setting, and the spot on character designs alongside the lovely tones of the film are a joy to behold. Fans of the anime adaptation by Mamoru Oshii, and the original Manga, will spot a number of familiar visual cues sprinkled throughout which adds a nice touch to proceedings too. Complimenting the visuals is Lorne Balfe and Clint Mansell’s score (which is also reminiscent of the latters work on Mass Effect 3), that has cyberpunk flowing through it’s veins. However the story underneath this new fantastic looking shell does not do it any justice.
It’s hard not to compare the 2017 Ghost in the Shell, which runs at 107 minutes, to the Oshii’s anime adaptation from 1995, which runs at 82 minutes. Not just because they are adaptations of the same work, but because the latter achieved vastly more in a shorter running time than this new version with all its bells and whistles. Rather than tackle the meaty existential themes running through the originals adaptation like binary code, the latest film supplants them for a largely unoriginal mystery plot about who Major Killian was before she became a cyborg that results in a remarkably dull finale. It’s basically an origin story that hides the origin until the climax. Though by no means poor, it is simply disappointing. Further to this (and this is just my inner fan speaking out loud) because of tinkering with elements of the story, scenes that once held weight barely scrape the surface of their original purpose.
For those who haven’t seen or read anything previous regarding Ghost in the Shell, then there is a mildly entertaining by the books big budget film to be found. But for those who’ve immersed themselves in either the 1995 anime Ghost in the Shell or the original Manga by Masamune Shirow, outside of the visual feast on offer only faint echoes of the originals ghost are present in this new updated shell.