Any mention of a live action adaptation of an anime, and you have a voice of doubt echoed through the anime community. And if said anime film is a cult classic like Ghost in the Shell, the echo is louder than ever. Luckily, I can safely say that Ghost in the Shell is certainly the most impressive live action adaptation of an anime film in recent memory, but let’s be honest, it didn’t have much competition (Looking at you Dragonball Evolution).
For the film that inspired The Matrix, it not that difficult to see how as the film touches upon the truthfulness of our lives and the world we inhabit. In the case of Ghost in the Shell we follow Major (Played by Scarlett Johannsson) on a journey of reconnecting with the world, whilst also investigating a series of hacks.
Alarm bells were first raised with the casting of Scarlett Johannsson with the whitewashing term. Personally, I have always thought the whitewashing of characters it completely absurd. It shouldn’t matter what colour of skin or nationality of an actor or actress, what should matter is the quality of their performance and ability to serve justice to said films adapted source material. Scarlett Johannsson answers her critics with great effectiveness by giving a performance of Major that doesn’t stray from the original 1995 cult classic. It is clear through her portrayal and delivery of dialogue that her character is on a journey of clarity, and the film is very clear that it wants to be a film about questioning identity and memory.
One of the elements in Ghost in the Shell that stood out from the rest is its central focus on visual appeal. Certainly, Ghost in the Shell is one of the more visually stunning films of this year. The colour palette of the film and the bright and neon lighting of the sets perfectly paint the picture of a vibrant future whilst throwing in a pinch of a dystopian feel into the mix. The film is beautifully framed which gives the futuristic look a boost of excellence resulting in the audience becoming encapsulated in the ultramodern, cyberpunk Japan. If you are a fan of futuristic worlds, you will have your mind blown away by the incredible attention to detail in the world and if you were a fan of the original Ghost in the Shell anime then prepare to be blown away once again.
Turning away from the visuals of the world, we instead turn our attention to the visuals of the characters. The cybernetic enhancements will be a big selling point to the audience and the introduction to the film where we observe the shell being made is beautiful in its presentation and made more better with great sound design that introduces us to the type of futuristic world that we be diving into.
But of course, although I claimed Ghost in the Shell to be the most impressive live action anime adaptation in recent memory, it is certainly not the most perfect. My main concern is that Ghost in the Shell doesn’t really contain much more to it. Imagine an empty glass, you can make that empty glass the most beautiful and sunning glass ever, but by filling it,it serves it purpose further. If you’re expecting something new from this film or even a completely fresh take on the anime, you be very disappointed as most of its practical filmmaking elements have already been done before. For example, take the emphasis on the world of Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner, there is an incredible amount of the same presentation in Ghost in the Shell through the over use of unnecessary establishing shots to the point where one could argue that the film is too over reliant in its visuals.
Where the film uses the overall theme of identity, it only scratches the surface on the myriad of other themes and philosophy’s that surround the original anime film such as technological advancements or even gender and human identification. The film could have taken a little less time in presenting cybernetic enhancements and more on how this technology effect in the world of Sarge, even so far as to how she is looked upon by others around her, yes it touches upon the fact that she is the first of her kind, however there was a nagging sensation that makes you want to go further into it.
The positives and negatives of Rupert Sanders creation carry an equal weight on the overall reception Ghost in the Shell will receive, but for the time being, it serves as a sturdy foundation for future adaptations of anime film. This is a film targeted at the type of audience who are already familiar with Mamoru Oshii’s masterpiece, I can’t see it winning over any newcomers.
The original did take me multiple viewings to fully appreciate the radiance and genius of what author Masamune Shirow wanted his creation to be, so who knows, maybe after multiple viewings of Rupert Sanders’ creation could improve our initial thoughts on it. However seeing as first impressions are so important, Ghost in the Shell remains a film that has more body than soul (or more shell than ghost so to speak).
Final Result: 6/10 – Above Average
Have you seen Ghost in the Shell? What did you think? Please let me know your thoughts and opinions in the comments below.
Next Time: Going in Style