Review: Ghost In The Shell Misses The Point Of Its Source Material
Title: Ghost in the Shell
Director: Rupert Sanders
Summary: In the near future, Major is the first of her kind: A human saved from a terrible crash, who is cyber-enhanced to be a perfect soldier devoted to stopping the world’s most dangerous criminals.
There are certain decisions that will force a production to have its back against the wall from the beginning. This was apparent with the new Ghostbusters when they decided not to make it part of the same continuity as the previous movies thus making a part of the Internet lose its mind for the better part of a year. While Ghost in the Shell hasn’t been quite as loud as Ghostbusters in terms of people getting death threats on social media, the outcry was loud and prominent. The casting of white actress Scarlett Johansson as a character in a Japanese anime was not a good way to start off this production. There was always the chance that they could pull this off or at least negate the racist casting through story points.
Ghost in the Shell decided that the best way to negate their racist casting was to lean into it with a terrible plot twist.
The original anime might have been several years ago but it is just as relevant when it comes to the social commentary. It has a lot to say about what it means to be human in a world increasingly dominated by technology. The movie starts off with plenty to say but decides to take that extremely complex story and dumb it down. The nuance and various things that make the original iterations great aren’t there. Instead they are replaced with a generic plot that we’ve seen a million times in any movie about androids. Our heroine can’t remember anything from before having her mind put into an android so now she needs to go find out who she really is. There are a million different movies and stories that used that plot device and to put it in something as original as Ghost in the Shell seems insulting to the source material.
The other thing that is insulting to the source material is the major plot twist that happens halfway through the movie. It’s something that breaks the movie in half but it is a spoiler that could be considered a deal breaker. However, it is also an important spoiler that needs to be talked about. So consider this a spoiler warning that will go for the rest of this paragraph but the next one will avoid all spoilers. One of the major reveals of the movie is that Scarlett Johansson “Major” actually is the original character from the anime Motoko Kusanagi, a Japanese woman. The movie took the fact that it whitewashed its actress and then decided to lean into it. As far as responding to the controversy, this plot twist is about as bad as out could be because now they literally, for story reasons, whitewashed a character.
If there is one place where the movie excels it’s in the visuals. While there are some odd decisions, such as how they get around the fact that Major is always naked in the anime, is a little odd but it looks fantastic. The fight scenes (the few that are there) look fantastic and the world looks like it jumped off the page of the manga or came to life from the anime. However, those beautiful visuals just draw more attention to how much they butchered the story. They wanted to bring something new to the story but they copy-pasted the visuals and missed the point of the original.
Ghost in the Shell is a movie shaping up to be the first big bomb of the year, but for those on the fence about attending; let’s just say it’s bombing for a reason. The visuals might be pretty but you could get those in a music video on youtube in six months. The visuals aren’t worth the money for a ticket and the story really isn’t.