We were always up against it really with this one. The trailers hadn’t been promising. The marketing campaign was frequently laughable and co opted by cunning internet memers. They had a godawful skrillexy remix (was actually skrillex?) of the the theme tune. They had a terrible version of Depeche Mode’s Enjoy the Silence connected to it. They had pretty much done everything possible to put me off.
Then there was the row over whitewashing.
I’ve changed my opinion on this several times from not a problem to problem to not a problem again. I suppose when you’re dealing with android bodies and human brains and so forth you’re allowed a bit of racial swapping too. I still didn’t like Scarlett being the lead role though, regardless.
I wonder if we’ll ever get another film where she gets to use a different facial expression?
But anyway, I rather like the original film. Not read the 5 billion page long manga but the film is pretty good stuff. Filled with existential contemplation and a fascinating mysteriousness.
This film frequently sets out to duplicate many of the scenes from the animated film as well as ones from the series and also second film. But in a somewhat jumbled up fashion. But in many ways the decisions on where to put some of those key sequences make sense for a traditional bit of western cinematic storytelling.
We strip out a lot of the original story and replace it with the revelation that the Major (a name that I’m going to comment on a bit more later) has a past she can’t remember which may have somewhat disturbing connotaions.
And this is fair enough for a standard sci fi action movie and all that but when you’re referencing so much of the original animated film you can’t help but compare and consider it Ghost in the Shell for dummies.
This ultimate search for the missing past idea is something just a little too familiar for those of us who’ve seen maybe more than 3 movies in our lifetime. The amnesiac protagonist whose past was stripped away by the organisation they work or worked for is a well worn trope.
The visuals have been remarked upon quite a bit and while there is quite a lot to enjoy visually it’s a little bit overloaded to the extent that I find it looks a little silly at times. That much ‘holographic’ cgi on the screen it gets very messy and seems like they were possibly a bit over eager in that regard. I know they wanted to create a striking visual identity to the film but sometimes a little less can be more.
Then there’s the name. Major. The way they use it in the film is very peculiar. We are told her name is Major Mira Killian several times (frequently by her) but then frequently people talk to her as if she’s called ‘Major’. Which is a little odd. But a minor point really.
Acting wise Scarlett is doing her trademark emotionless thing and is reasonably ok I guess but the problem is she’s just too familiar and that makes it awkward. An unknown admittedly probably wouldn’t have had bums on seats in the cinema but still. When she’s been Black Widow for Marvel so much you can’t help but equate the two.
Lovely subtle work from Takeshi Kitano as the section 9 boss. He’s still effortlessly cool even when he does pretty much nothing at all. Subtle facial expressions and dialogue delivery always win. The actor playing Batou I was very impressed with, he gets the character across very well and is undoubtedly the very human part of the film that we are to relate to.
Overall though I just tended to get the niggling feeling of it being people playing at being Ghost in the Shell, almost like a college fan film or some such. It tries so hard but never quite seems to get it and I do think much of that is down to the tweaking of the plot for a more mainstream audience and casting of an all too familiar lead actor.