Ghost in the Shell (2017)

ghost in the shell poster 2017 movie
6.5 Overall Score
Story: 6/10
Acting: 6/10
Visuals: 9/10

Good looking

Casting of Johannson raises unanswered questions about race and society within the context of the story

Movie Info

Movie Name:   Ghost in the Shell

Studio:   DreamWorks Pictures

Genre(s):   Comic Book/Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Action/Adventure

Release Date(s):   March 16, 2017 (Japan)/March 31, 2017 (US)

MPAA Rating:  PG-13

ghost in the shell 2017 major killian invisible suit scarlett johansson

Who needs clothing when you don’t have a human body?

Major Mira Killian (Scarlett Johansson) isn’t exactly human…but she isn’t a robot either.  With the “ghost” of a human inhabiting a robot body, Killian believes she is the first of her kind.  When a terrorist named Kuze (Michael Pitt) begins targeting the people who created Killian, Killian is ordered to find the attacker of Hanka Robotics and stop him.  Unfortunately, Killian begins to realize that Kuze has his reasons and what she thought was her past might not be the truth.

Directed by Rupert Sanders, Ghost in the Shell is an adaptation of the manga series by Masamune Shirow which was originally published in Young Magazine from April 1989 to November 1990.  The story was previously adapted into an anime feature in 1995 and has a cult following.  This adaptation faced accusations of whitewashing and racism by the casting of Scarlett Johansson in the lead and was met with mixed reviews and a slight profit at the box office (mainly in overseas markets).

Ghost in the Shell is always listed among the big, influential manga titles.  The cyber-tech story fit in well in the ’90s and helped propel the cyberpunk genre.  While I was never that big of a fan of the original, I had some interest in the remake just to see how it would appear.  The visuals were great, but the filming decisions led to (most likely) unintended consequences.

ghost in the shell kuze michael pitt

Bang…you’re dead (if you ever were really alive)

The story for the movie does feel much more simplified.  It is almost a simple action movie and the ideas of a soul and what it means for these characters to be put in a mechanical body isn’t really questioned enough.  The original story was high concept and played with the idea of humans becoming more and more dependent on technology…something that has occurred since its original publication.  It is this power of the story that propels it, so to downplay it seems foolish.

Despite this, the visuals are amazing.  The techno-candy vision of the souped-up world is great.  It combines elements of Blade Runner with enough reality to not make it feel like you are seeing a completely unreal world.  It gets that despite the amazing look of the world that it is still depressing and scenes like the underwater swimming help show what it would be like trapped in a world of lights, bells and whistles for 24/7.

ghost in the shell major mira killian robot face off scarlett johannson

It’s what is inside that counts…right?

Unfortunately, the casting of Scarlett Johansson does create problems, but not in the way that was necessarily complained about.  Her casting affects the story in subtle ways.  While the movie does make an effort to try to show that the world is a multicultural world and not just an Asian based society, the fact that Killian was Japanese before being put in her “shell”, kind of gives an underlying message about appearance and ideals.  Should someone who is Japanese be put in a body that is Japanese?  What does that say about society, and if barriers are being broken down by technology and artificial life, does race matter?  It could also be noted that Hideo is placed in the white body of Michael Pitt as well.

Is Ghost in the Shell whitewashing?  Yes…and in a way that is slightly more dangerous.  If we are choosing race and our future forms, Ghost in the Shell implies that white is right.  If they had decided to discuss it in the movie, it would have maybe been a decent plot point, but since it isn’t discussed, it is just assumed that Scarlett Johansson is the ideal form.  All of this aside (if you can avoid it), Ghost in the Shell does have its moments, but it misses a lot of interesting aspects of the story and just comes down as a slightly above average action movie…which leaves you wanting something more provocative.

Related Links:

Ghost in the Shell (1995)

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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