Scarlett Johansson in Ghost in the Shell

Movie Review: Ghost in the Shell (2017) *What a Beautiful Mess*

Scarlett Johansson, Ghost in the Shell

Ghost in the Shell is a visually stunning film with cutting-edge F/X that will, ultimately, bore you senseless.  Between Scarlett Johansson and the art direction, there’s a lot of beautiful things to look at, but it can’t save a dull and awkward script from making a hash of an anime classic.  There are, by the way, about 16 different “this shell is hollow” jokes that I passed up because-honestly-after sitting through this I’m suffering from sensory overload and intellectual underwhelm (it’s a thing).
Ghost in the Shell

I say that Ghost in the Shell is an anime classic, but I have no experience with the anime, so I only know its reputation, and I can’t help but think that the people who created the anime could have done a lot better job with this than the director that brought us Snow White and the Huntsman.  I hoped I wouldn’t have to go into this in the review, since I had to mention the “whitewashing” controversy surrounding the film, but having seen it, it’s kind of ridiculous.  Nearly all of the major speaking roles are non-Asian actors….in a movie clearly set in a future Tokyo…adapted from a Japanese created classic.  They make a plot point around why Scarlett Johansson’s Major Moto Kusangi isn’t Japanese, but it’s weak.  I love Johansson, and she’s clearly a fan of this material, but this film could have been made with an Asian actress in the lead (they DO exist) and if they’d actually had the script to match the visuals, people would’ve gone.  They certainly could’ve done some overseas box office, but as it was, the film tanked in a packed March release schedule.

Scarlett Johansson, Ghost in the Shell

The film centers around Major Moto Kusangi (Johansson) a cybernetic body with a human brain, her work as part of a counter terrorism unit called Section 9, and her ongoing quest to discover the truth about her clouded past.  I can easily see how the themes of technology, self, cyber enhancements, where tech is taking us, and super awesome action (of which there are a few cool set pieces) could come together to make an intriguing film.  I may seek out the anime, in which case, if any KTers know of the best place to start, educate me.  Unfortunately, none of the promising themes come together to form anything of real substance.  If it wasn’t so darn pretty, honestly I would have fallen asleep.

Scarlett Johansson, Ghost in the Shell

It’s a shame that the opportunity to bring something this promising overseas was turned into a soulless mess.  It never fails to stun me what studios will pay for F/X and what they won’t for writing.  By the way, I have a pet peeve about the title of a film being punningly stuck in a script, but Ghost in the Shell is so sure you won’t get what the title means by the end of the film, they’ve wasted at least nine separate references to it, because that’s how stupid they think their audience is.  It’s insulting, and I’d be a lot more outraged about it if ScarJo hadn’t been in a nude onesie most of the film (I’M NOT MADE OF STONE!!!).


Scarlett Johansson, Ghost in the Shell

6 thoughts on “Movie Review: Ghost in the Shell (2017) *What a Beautiful Mess*”

  1. Good review. The movie is visually stunning, but, like you said, is a beautiful mess. I’m actually watching the original 1995 anime version right now (as I’m writing this). The 2017 version has all the iconic moments from the original anime, but its themes and philosophical seem dated (almost generic), especially since the original anime film was released back in 1995 and served as the foundation for many complex sci-fi movies such as The Matrix, Minority Report, A.I., or even Avatar.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I kept thinking of all those very films while I was watching GITS and thinking I’d missed the boat on seeing this when it could be visionary, but if it could again, its creators should have been the ones to make the attempt.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I genuinely dislike this movie. Like Jason pointed out above, we like in a post-Matrix, post-AI, post-Blade Runner world, yet the filmmakers of GITS lead us around by the nose as though we have never seen anything resembling this material before. The condescension, the lack of respect for the intelligence of the audience, is staggering. As I watched the film, I longed to be plunged into its incredible world, which is almost as visually unique as Blade Runner once was, but the very first expository scene, after the mind-blowingly beautiful opening credits, was so formulaic and cliched, and delivered with such sledgehammer force, that I instantly knew what I was in for. It’s so rare, and frankly thrilling, to see a film that creates a brand-new aesthetic of its own, and the fact that GITS squanders everything it has going for it is frustrating and sad.

    And after greenlighting the most obvious, cynical film in the world, the studio STILL thought GITS was so weird that they needed someone like SJ, instead of an asian actress.

    I’m so happy that Jordan Peele chose to pass on that big-budget anime film he was offered. Life is too short. It would have derailed his career, because he would not have been allowed to make a good movie. After seeing GITS, I hope that Hollywood has been scared away from anime adaptations forever. I am not an anime guy, but there is a beauty and a power to really good examples of the genre, and while I think that the fans tend to overstate the deepness of a lot of the classics, Hollywood would be better off trying to adapt things that are not from a foriegn culture, and exclusively enjoyed by nerds, because Hollywood does not trust other cultures, or nerds.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Akira is even more holy in the anime canon than GITS, so that would have derailed Peele from making original films like Get Out, which is still my #1 movie going into mid-July to my surprise. War or Dunkirk certainly has a chance to unseat it, but who’d have thunk. The whitewashing in the film is really so overt that it can’t even be explained away. That out of the five leading speaking roles, one is Asian? That’s absurd. And, oh my Lord, if someone tried to explain the concept of the ghost being still alive in the shell like I was in some kind of bizarre phonics lesson run by pedantic screenwriters I was going to ….fast forward to the next time ScarJo deployed the onesie.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

Gravatar Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s