So at the time of writing this I just got back from watching Ghost In The Shell 2017 and I have to be honest, it exceeded my admittedly low expectations. My perspective going in based on the trailers were cautiously optimistic. As you and I both know the track record for these types of films aren’t the best. So with that said, how did it exceed my low expectations? What are the positives, the negatives, and differences to the original? Did it ruin the original? Here’s what I thought to those questions after seeing the film.
For this section of the review, I’ll try to keep spoilers to a minimum and tell you my overall score of the film at the end of this section (“The positive section”) for those that aren’t interested in the more in depth section.
So with that said, what are the positives in Ghost In The Shell 2017? The first thing was the cinematography and visuals. I have minor nitpicks, but overall the visuals and the way the film was shot is done beautifully. The environments of the city, technology were eye catching. As a viewer the setting designs of the city, and characters keeps your eyes engaged on the screen. The city felt like it fit right in with movies like Blade Runner, Fifth Element, etc. However, I felt there are some odd direction choices with the characters and such but I’ll get into that later. The actions scenes as well were shot well on top of that. The reason being is that it’s the first American film that I’ve have seen in a long time where the actions scenes were lit well enough where you can see the action scenes play out. They are actually shot more statically then the modern trend of jarring shaky cam. It was a pleasant surprise to see that. The reason this shaky cam trend has become a thing in my opinion is because well…it’s makes it easier on the on all departments honestly. For these jarring, shaking action shots, shot in a low light setting , it’s makes the on set department jobs a bit easier, and editors on the post production side of things. With the aggressively shaking movement of the camera and lack their of lighting, you can cut around scenes pretty effortlessly if the shots are similar enough. A couple of movies that suffer from this are Batman Begins and Godzilla 2014 to name a few. I’ll put this trend simply, It sucks, please stop, I like actually being able to see the sets of where the fighting is taking place, and get a gauge of the environment please.
Second positive was the sound and foley work (sound special effects). Now, I believe they used some of the original music in the film it was a nice touch to add for the fans out there, that music is pretty timeless and you can’t go wrong with it. Overall the other pieces included in the score of the film fit nicely. The music used fit the tone for each sequence I felt. Also the sound effects or foley that were recorded were recorded and edited well. The articulation of the robot parts, Major’s suit, and the typical punches, kicks and guns stood out and felt impactful. I’d recommend checking out Adam Savage’s video on the robots seen in the trailer to check them out practically and then seeing the sound effects for their design articulation in the film.
So with all of that what I felt were positives, we sadly have to turn to the negatives, but not those negative right away…The negativity surrounding the whitewashing narrative the media is trying to spin. This is a review of the film so I’m not going to go into it deeply here, not to shamelessly plug this but when it’s up on youtube check out the Toonami Squad Podcast Sessions episode where I ranted about this more deeply if your interested. I’ll throw in the link once I finish uploading it. However, it’s unavoidable to not mention it in the review so I’ll say this here. You need to expand your suspension of disbelief. Stop thinking every minority needs to be represented in fictitious realities called entertainment. In my opinion projects like this are up to the interpreters in other words the writers producers and directors, and it’s ok to agree or disagree with what the interpreters come up with. However, to say concepts are exclusively to where the origin of the concept was created well, I believe your stifling that concept’s potential. It’s a disservice to the Ghost In The Shell property because you never know if one of these writers, directors particularly could come up with a concept or idea that takes Ghost In The Shell in a different direction never thought of or explored in the original manga or movie.
So with that said, the third positive is the cast with the exception of one character. Overall Scarlett Johanson and the rest of the cast does a very good job with their performances. The interactions felt natural and like the show honestly. Major and Batou played off each other and felt like the characters from the show. Aramaki even though he was speaking Japanese the whole movie (not that their was anything wrong with that) was, for lack of a more professional sounding word and cringe worthy pun, was a freaken boss honestly!
So we come to the end of what I felt were the positives of the film. My final verdict is a 7/10. In my opinion it’s a passable but a dumbed down faithful adaption of the Ghost In The Shell concept. It’s solid but has plenty of room for improvement. If you’re a casual science fiction fan you may get some enjoyment out of it but don’t expect to be blown away by anything. For the hardcore Ghost In The Shell fans, as I said before, it’s a faithful but dumbed down version of the classic anime that you love. You’ll maybe get some enjoyment re-experiencing the live action recreations of the classic sequences in the film. From a Ghost In The Shell fan, these are parts where I got enjoyment from it. I had a good time but didn’t blow me away.
Now you might be wondering now, what do I mean dumbed down? Well that’s what I’m about to plug into deeply. Starting beyond this point is the in depth spoilers section for both Ghost In The Shell 2017 and the animated film. Check out the movies then head back here to read the comparisons I make and see what you think. So let’s dive into the negatives of Ghost In The Shell 2017 and compare and contrast them to the original 1995 animated film Ghost In The Shell.
Negative one was partially the direction, mostly writing department in this sense. As I mentioned in the final verdict section, I felt the story was dumbed down significantly for the causal viewer who doesn’t know Ghost In The Shell. The story felt by the book honestly. They’re changes to the story, but the changes didn’t explore new territories per say. Having seen the original and even re-watching it after I came home from seeing the live action version, the animated version executed the material in a more interesting way. Some of the choices to change from the animated to the live action were odd. An example is the Puppet Master isn’t technically the puppet master in the live action version. According to IMDB the character’s name is Hide Kuzein and he and the Major had a past together thus explaining their “connection” in the 2017 live action version. Comparing this to the original animated movie in simplest of terms, the Major just being the Major is what made her unique. Her presence alone and what she was made from is what made her stand out and thus why the Puppet Master chose her. Ghost In The Shell to me is more about what defines humanity and the Major is the living embodiment of that question and is often asking herself this question. Major in the live action version is more of who am I rather than what am I? I feel that the “what am I” concept is more interesting to explore. The live action version could have went down the moral road of is it wrong to have an artificially made person to be able to obtain and experience memories from another person and act as it’s their own memories. They could have played that up more, but sadly they didn’t explore it enough and went with the “who am I” cliché. To add to the lack of depth of the concept the ending of the film where you know Major and Puppet Master “connected as one,” the ending is confusing since your not really sure if they connected or not because of the honestly awkward direction and execution of the sequence. After Kuz supposedly I guess connected, Major gets up and walks away with Batou in a hero shot type of thing and moves on to the next mission I guess. When comparing it to the original your asking the question of who is the Major? Is she still the same cause clearly you see she’s changed. Also the original ends with her head on the body of a kid female android body I believe. In artistic jargon, I feel the interpretation of that is that the Major has been re-born in a sense, a new. Ghost In The Shell live action, she’s the Major that’s it.
Identity is an important element but Ghost In The Shell was never that simplistic, it was way more complex. Another example is “Kuze” or “Live Action, Not Puppet Master’s” back story. In the live action version Kuze and Major briefly lived in the same area as kids and where taken away by the evil cooperation to do interesting experiments on them in order to build a super something or other being. Essentially evil cooperation takes children to build into the ultimate butt kicking weapon that’s completely under their control. Where have I seen this before, oh wait, mostly every futuristic scifi action film ever. As compared to the original where Kuze or Puppet Master, essentially built himself from the ground up to rebel against the evil cooperation and extract revenge on them for literally tearing his life apart and leaving him behind. What makes the original’s execution interesting by not only exploring ideas like searching for what defines us as humans, one finding and accepting their identity and personality, but also an actual justification for vengeance against someone that has wronged you. Exploring a character that literally was stripped of his own personally, identity, and humanity all at once and everything Puppet Masters does to extract his revenge, building himself on his own takes incredible ingenuity and intelligence and sure bonafied human will power, but in technicality he’s not human. So what is he? A.I? Human? Robot? Android? Meta Organism? What is Puppet Master defined as as a character or being for that matter? Can you be considered human with experiences and memories that were handed to you on a silver platter, or hardrive in this case? All of this and more are in one way or another brought up in the original film.
Also there is a element of how much technology has evolved over the years. In the modern age where our phones for an example are joined with us by the hip everywhere we go, it makes you think, is Ghost In The Shell where we are heading as a species? Will we to become so dependent on technology to make our lives easier that we’ll be willing to enhance ourselves with technology that was once joined with us at the hip to literally becoming apart of our being? We are able to connect to a network by our enhancements and thus making us vulnerable to hacks of our physical being in this case? The garbage man in both films we could be him one day! Again stuff like this could have made this live action interpretation very appealing and interesting in this day in age. But instead it got dumbed down.
Speaking of that scene, let’s compare and contrast the garbage man scenes back to back. In the live action version, it’s just two garbage guys and just another day driving the dumpster truck. One of them makes and joke and laughs and then are suddenly hacked and crashes into a car attempting to murder the doctor. The Major jumps in and stops the two garbage men and captures one of them. While the garbage man is being interrogated it’s revealed during the interrogation scene that the garbage that was captured has a family. But shortly after it’s revealed he actually doesn’t have a family and the memories were implanted into the garbage man’s enhancement.
Now the original movie plays out the same way with one minor difference, the joke the garbage man makes is about his family, and then gets a bit sentimental following the joke. It may come across as a nitpick and a minor change from the original to the live action version but in my opinion this minor change is a change that hurts the overall story and concept of Ghost In The Shell. In a emotional sense the original scene is more impactful because you believe it’s an innocent family man being forced against his will, where the twist here is that it turns out not only is he a innocent man being forced against his will, but a lonely man who just found out that the life he thought he was living was a lie. It’s way more impactful for an audience in my opinion executed like so.
This also proves another point to, visually the world building is great to look at, but part of that world building are the characters that inhabit said world and thus gives it that extra layer that brings it to life. However, the world building with the characters was severely lacking, that’s even including the interactions of the squad in section nine. The Major and Batou are good and play off each other well but the rest doesn’t feel like a veteran team that has seen a lot. Going back to Aramaki talking Japanese through out the film, again nothing wrong with that but in a film where he’s literally the only character speaking like that was very distracting and felt forced to “appeal or represent that demographic.” Also comparing him to the original Aramaki’s role in the film was significantly decreased in the live action film. I didn’t feel any connection to the “team” like I did in the original.
A sequence that stood out to me in the live action film was the deep dive scene. In the live action version The Major does the deep dive and discovers Kuze was trying to hack the cooperation. Major disobeys an order to not do the deep dive. Aramaki lets this happen, by not being in the room at all and later in the film gets blamed for it happening. What the hell movie? Instead Batou was there and tried to stop the dive but of course he doesn’t cause he trusts his companion but doesn’t get the “you answer to us lecture.”
The last character I want to talk about was Dr. Quelet, she was the by the book sympathetic character doing terrible experiments for the evil cooperation who redeems herself by self sacrifice in theory anyway. I didn’t like the actress or the character for all of those reasons in my opinion. Might be the lack of character development or something else but for some reason she didn’t click for me. Overall, though these were my biggest gripes, and a few minor nitpicks like at the end I swear Johanson looked like she was levitating after walking away from the grave she visited. It looked obviously green screened, like Jean Grey levitating at the end of Xmen Apocalypse bad. Other nitpicks where the changes as mentioned before and toned down graphic scenes. Found some of those sequences as an interesting eyebrow raiser, but overall the biggest issue was the simplistic approach to the story, concepts, and development because those elements are just so essential to the core idea that is Ghost In The Shell. Look at the title of what your working on. It speaks for itself. But anyway, they did an alright job with the simplistic approach but again I’m very disappointed they didn’t try to explain these elements further.
So those are my positive and negative feelings of the Ghost In The Shell 2017 film. As I said it’s a 7/10 at best. You’ll get some entertainment out of it, but it’s nothing like it’s 1995 counterpart. Please I’m curious what you, the readers thought of the film. Do you agree with my thoughts or am I being overly opinionated? Please let me know. I hoped you enjoy my review and until next time, Don’t forget the memories you cherish, they are apart of what defines yourself. Dive deep, become you.