Ghost in the Shell (2017) Review

This was a rough one. For a film that’s so beautifully shot, it’s one of the most uninteresting things I’ve watched in awhile. I haven’t seen any of the animated movies or the anime (nor read the manga), so I can’t comment on how it compares to the source material, but I don’t think that matters much because the movie just isn’t very good.

It’s directed by Rupert Sanders, who also directed Snow White and the Huntsman, and stars Scarlett Johansson as Major Mira Killian, a person who’s brain was put into a cybernetic body. She ends up working for Section 9 which is an organization that deals with things such as counter-terrorism. The basic premise of the story centers around Section 9 trying to catch a hacker who’s going after certain people and killing them.

What I loved about the movie was the world. I’m a huge fan of that cyberpunk style, so it played right into my tastes. It was cool seeing people with these neat cybernetic enhancements in this city of neon lights. I particularly loved the large billboard-like holograms that decorated the skyline. I can’t say the movie adds any of its own unique flair that we haven’t really seen before, but it’s still cool nonetheless.

As mentioned earlier, the movie is shot very well for the most part. A lot of wide shots to really get a sense of the world, and when the action gets started you can easily make out what’s going on. When most films like to do quick cuts and shaky cam to ill-effect for their action sequences, this movie allows you to follow along and enjoy the action, which itself is fine. Nothing I would really say stands out to me and most of the sequences, in my opinion, don’t last for very long, but that’s really more a nitpick. It’s not a weak aspect of the film.

That honor is reserved for everything else. Even though the movie is very enjoyable to look at, I feel it lacks tension and energy. I would argue some scenes could’ve been shot differently to better evoke a sense of emotion. There was one scene in which someone who Section 9 captured actually had their memories altered by the hacker. It should’ve been this sad, emotionally devastating moment, but it just kind of fell flat.

The story isn’t very interesting as well. What makes it more frustrating is that there are elements of a complex narrative, but just like with the ideas it brings up in the movie such as what it means to be human, it doesn’t really go deeper with them. It settles for the surface level. One of the antagonists in the movie is as one dimensional as you can get. There’s no complexity to his motivation other than he’s the bad guy. The other antagonist is actually quite interesting, but I just wish we were able to spend a little bit more time learning about him. We get enough to be intrigued, but that’s about it.

Which is fair enough. The movie is about Major Mira Killian. Unfortunately, I just didn’t really care about her. I don’t think Scarlett Johansson gave a bad performance, but the Major just isn’t that compelling of a character. The movie never really does a good job showing us who she is or how she feels about her situation. Early on after killing a robot one of her partners says to her that “She isn’t the same,” and the Major leaves the scene upset, but it’s never brought up again. The Major is never given a chance to talk about how she feels about being a ghost in a shell so to speak. She’s never allowed to really open up, therefore we never really get a sense of who she is. And that’s not the worst thing in the world. We can like a character and get to learn who they are as a person without really ever going in-depth into their backstory, but she is never given any tough choices throughout the movie that helps inform us on what kind of character she is based on her choices. Hell, she’s never really given anything interesting to say. Combine that with the fact she doesn’t have any personal stakes in the story up until just past the halfway point, it just doesn’t lead to a very captivating character to follow. If the whole movie was about her trying to get her memories back then that’s something that could’ve created compelling character drama. Instead, it really only comes into focus in the latter half of the movie and by then I just didn’t care what was going on.

I could go on and on about this movie, but I think I got my point across by this point. The film is definitely not a complete waste of time and as always I encourage anyone who’s interested in seeing a movie to check it out no matter what the consensus for it is. Even if something isn’t liked by others it doesn’t mean you won’t like it. It’s just in this case I didn’t.

(Also, I really liked Johan Philip Asbæk as the character Batou. He was cool.)





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