In the late 90s the Manga movies were in full force with a large following. One movie gained cult status and that was the Cyber punk thriller, Masamune Shirow’s Ghost in the Shell.
Directed by Rupert Sanders and written by Jamie Moss, William Wheeler and Ehren Kruger, based on the Japanese manga of the same name by Masamune Shirow. The film stars Scarlett Johansson, Takeshi Kitano, Michael Pitt, Pilou Asbæk, Chin Han and Juliette Binoche.
Set in the future and with an abstract story line, it was always going to be a tough film to bring to the big screen and with an outline of an implied story in the original it was even more of a challenge for film makers. However, fans have been waiting for this to happen for almost 30 years.
Set in the distant future, Major ( Johansson) is the seemingly first of her kind. A human brain in a cybernetic body. Saved from a crash her brain has been saved and the ghost – her soul partially remains. She is a purpose built killing machine, stopping criminals for the organisation Section 9. When a terrorist appears, hacking and killing people she must use her unique skills to uncover the criminal. Along the way she will discover things about herself and her creation. Upon the discovery of her creation she begins to uncover the truth, leading her to her past and an unlikely ally that unravels the truth about her existence. With the help of her team Batou ( Pilou Asbæk) and her boss Chief Daisuke Aramaki ( Takeshi Kitano) she goes to extremes to bring the terrorist hacker to justice and uncover the truth behind the attacks on her colleauges.
Fans of the original may or may not be happy with this slick remake. With the visual effects being stunning and the stunts really quite impressive at times the story line falls flat. The original Manga did have an abstract storyline and it may have been hard to extrapolate
In order to make the movie more interesting a lot more has been added. Is the back story really necessary? For non- Manga fans it is, to establish some kind of link to the character. It helps bring Major to life and establish pathos for her situation. For the die hard fans of the original it may come across as tedious and not necessary. But for Hollywood and the public’s sake it has to be done. Not much of the original scripting or scenes remain from the anime version and at times it seeems like the idea was borrowed, the story line not quite as much.
What may also irritate cult classic fans is the casting of Scarlette Johannson as the lead. With the use of make up it has been attempted to make her look slightly Asian. This is a moot point with most Anime fans and like Aeon Flux before it, its not the first time Hollywood have opted for a bankable star instead of an authentic Asian actress. In the lead Johanssen is adequate enough, however her broodyness and pouting seems a little strange, when the original character was not as bothered by her status as a cybernetic being. In the original it is unclear if Major is Asian or not, so having Johannsen as the lead is a move that makes the movie more appealing to a wider audience. Having already played a cybernetic being in Lucy (2014) , its a genre Johannson is familiar with and a safe choice.
Whilst the film more than delivers on the visual effects what it essentially falls flat on is storyline. It drags at times and the impressive action scene that captures viewers attention at the beginning of the film is not repeated a whole lot. A fight scene between Major and a garbage truck driver that is played out on a lake is however visually stunning.
There could have been a lot more done to make this film more of a success than it is. Uncessary back story, a broody character and clunky drawn out plot lines make it a rather forgettable film. The cross over between the hugely popular Anime series has always been a challenge and once again falls short.