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Midvale Journal

Dan's Review: "Ghost in the Shell" borrows a lot

Apr 01, 2017 10:29AM ● By Dan Metcalf

Scarlett Johansson in Ghost in the Shell - © 2017 Paramount.

Ghost in the Shell (Paramount Pictures)

Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence, suggestive content and some disturbing images.

Starring Scarlett Johansson, Takeshi Kitano, Michael Pitt, Pilou Asbæk, Chin Han, Juliette Binoche, Lasarus Ratuere, Danusia Samal, Yutaka Izumihara, Tawanda Manyimo, Peter Ferdinando, Pete Teo, Rila Fukushima, Yuta Kazama, Christopher Obi, Kaori Momoi, Tricky.

Written by Jamie Moss, William Wheeler and Ehren Kruger, based on Ghost in the Shell by Masamune Shirow.

Directed by Rupert Sanders.



Typecasting is usually considered as a bad thing, but for some celebrities, it’s the only thing that puts bread on the table. Scarlett Johansson has made a name for herself playing  Natasha Romanoff (A.K.A. “Black Widow”) in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, kicking butt and using her hand-to-hand and weaponry combat skills to save the world. When it was announced that Johansson would play the Major Mira Killian in the live-action film adaptation of Masamune Shirow’s Ghost in the Shell graphic novel series, many saw it as a perfect match, while others were not so pleased that a Caucasian would play a role written as an Asian. No matter how you feel about cultural differences or familiarity with Johansson’s fighting technique, Ghost in the Shell is in theaters whether you like it or not.

Johansson plays Mira, a cybernetic being made entirely of robotic technology, with a human brain implant. With no memory of her life as a human, Mira is manufactured by the Hanka corporation and sold as a weapon to be used against terrorists and hackers that threaten society. Mira’s creator is Dr. Ouélet (Juliette Binoch) who assures her that her host brain was harvested from a young woman saved from a sinking ship, although Mira has no recollection of events prior to her cybernetic creation. Mira is part of a team of commandos, including Batou (Pilou Asbæk). The commandos are tasked to find out why Hanka scientists are being killed by killer robots and their data mined. Her investigation leads to a mysterious cyborg named Hadley Kruz (Michael Pitt), another cyborg like herself, only less polished and full of glitches. Hadley tries to convince Mira that Ouélet and folks at Hanka are lying to her about her past, and that she’s not the first of her kind. Mira must chose to between embracing her past over securing the future of mankind.

When it comes to film adaptation, there’s a temptation to compare the updated version with previous renditions and the source material. Having little exposure to the graphic novel (and subsequent anime film), I’m left with no choice but to judge Ghost in the Shell on its own merit.

As a whole, Rupert Sanders’ film has all the earmarks of an adequate “Tech Noir” movie, with incredible special effects, stunts and combat action.  The movie loses steam in the middle act, as Mira searches for her past and reacts in isolated anger to the truth about Hanka (A.K.A., “a little boring”).

Speaking of type casting, it seems that getting yet another “Black Widow”-type performance from Johansson isn’t the only borrowed aspect of Ghost in the Shell. There are several cinematic similarities between Ghost in the Shell and other movies, including Blade Runner, Total Recall and especially the Wachoskis’ Matrix series. The theme of corporate control over one’s liberty is equally redundant, yet worthy of reminding. While the scenery, art direction and cinematography are also laudable efforts, there’s no escaping that you’ve seen so many characteristics of The Ghost in the Shell before.

Ghost in the Shell Trailer