Ghost in the Shell (2017)

Posted in Reviews by - April 14, 2017
Ghost in the Shell (2017)

A perfectly entertaining sci-fi action film which is part The Fifth Element, part The Matrix, and only partially the masterpiece it is actually based on. This sidesteps the animé’s existential questions in favour of a more predictable revenge motive, and never quite reaches the transcendent heights of the original film and its neo-noir aesthetic. Part of the issue stems from the live action which, ironically, seems to be at least 80 per cent digitally animated. By physically embodying such wide concepts as memory theory and artificial intelligence immediately draws on the need to focus on emotion rather than ideas, and that is where this adaptation falters and falls into cliche. However, judged by its own merits, the film still paints a vividly imagined future-world of digitised cityscapes and an all-pervading, claustrophobic, dystopian malaise. Johansson continues her great tradition of latex-clad, ass-kicking superheroes, capable of doing both alien and alienated. She’s the manufactured cybernetic property of a major robotics operation who freelance their operatives to a governmental protection programme (headed up by the great Japanese director Takeshi Kitano – the only person speaking Japanese in a mostly American version of Tokyo which is actually, clearly, Hong Kong). When a marauding AI starts hacking into her circuit boards, she starts to remember details from her sketchy past, and the corporation take decisive action. There are some great people working on the stunts and fight action, including Guy Norris and Richard Norton, although much of their work seems to be obscured by digital tampering. The most memorable and symbolic moments are lifted from the animé: the swarms of network cabling, so much like the life-giving umbilical cords in the birthing process, not to mention her fetishistic invisibility suit. Without the philosophical heft, the film feels simply like a stylish, breezy techno thriller with some decent action scenes and a strong central performance.

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Editor and creator of Kung Fu Movie Guide and the host of the Kung Fu Movie Guide Podcast. I live behind a laptop in London, UK.

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