What do you get when you cross Blade Runner with Robocop and sprinkle in a little Johnny Mnemonic? A movie during which I almost fell asleep. Twice. To be fair, I had to wake up before five o’clock that morning to get to a meeting, but a loss of an hour of sleep isn’t enough to explain why I had to fight nodding off during an action film. An action film starring Scarlett Johansson. There might actually be something wrong with me.
As it turns out, there’s nothing wrong with me. Ghost in the Shell is pretty boring and pretty empty. I had a shell pun all prepared, but my friend said no. Anyway, I perused a few early reviews and they all had a similar experience as me. Essentially, Ghost in the Shell is all style and little substance. Like them, I found the plot to be very lacking, the characters woefully underdeveloped, and the point of the movie missing. As an unintentional confirmation, a friend said arguably the worst defense one can possibly give for a movie – “if you saw the original, this one makes a lot more sense.” He wasn’t saying that to point out this movie’s flaws, he was saying it as evidence of how good he thought this remake was. If knowing the source material is required to understand a movie, that movie has failed at least one degree of filmmaking and probably others.
(SPOILER WARNING for everyone out there who is not an anime nerd. That same friend said the film stays very close to the 1995 version and, apparently, anyone who is a fan of anime has seen this movie so they already know what’s going to happen in this one.)
The biggest problem with Ghost in the Shell is the movie can’t decide what its plot is supposed to be. That probably has something to do with the fact that the screenplay was written by three different people and I’m betting at least one of them doesn’t give a shit about anime. It also has five different production companies, which isn’t terribly abnormal, but when two of them are Paramount and DreamWorks and two others are Chinese companies, you know there were far too many muckety-muck fingers in this pie demanding things that had nothing to do with good writing, but I digress.
I’d like to tell you that the visuals of this movie are a redeeming quality, but that would be giving it too much credit. There isn’t anything wrong with them, but they don’t bring anything new or interesting to the table. If anything, they are nothing more than a modernized version of Blade Runner on steroids. And don’t even get me started on how lazy they got with Major. Her skin allows her to become invisible, yet during half of the action scenes she is inexplicably wearing body armor and jeans and not using her invisibility at all. Or wearing a strappy tank top, which is totally what a robot with no emotions would do.
The bottom line is that this movie could have been much better. A better movie would have spent more time on Major’s memory fragments and used them to show how her ghost wouldn’t let go and fought with the machine of Major. A better movie would have kept Kuze as the antagonist (a fully human one at that) who was simply just fighting Hanka on the grounds of stopping the dehumanization of cyber enhancements (which goes along with Major’s inner turmoil). A better movie would have used Batou to push Major towards her human side while using her doctor (Juliette Binoche), the doctor who created Major, to push Major the other way. A better movie would have used all of that to explore the concept of humans becoming less human. Most importantly, a better movie wouldn’t have leaned so heavily on people knowing a twenty-two year old movie (and even older TV series) and being manga nerds. Or anime. Or whatever.
Rating: Ask for seven dollars back and make sure to wake up the man next to you.