Ghost in the Shell – film review

"Ghost in the Shell" 2017 theatrical teaser poster.
“Ghost in the Shell” 2017 theatrical teaser poster.
I read the Ghost in the Shell manga way back in the day, not too long after it came out in English, so I was interested to see this first live-action adaptation. Mira Killian works for Section 9, a government anti-terrorist organization. Her entire body—except for her brain—was replaced with a cybernetic body after she barely survived a terrorist attack that killed her parents. During an investigation into ‘bots being hacked, she begins to question who she is and how much of her life is real.

The overall visuals in this film very closely matched the detailed work of the original creator, Masamune Shirow. From the setting to the costumes, the producers spent a lot of effort in getting the feel right. While set in Japan, Ghost in the Shell features a much more international and metropolitan sense than exists in Japan today.

Bits and pieces of cultures all over the world can be seen mixed in to the scenes and modified to a Japanese sensibility. This is just the way Japan adopts things today. It made me nostalgic for when I lived there for a few years.

The music worked really well, and I have to praise Clint Mansell and Lorne Balfe for their work. I was never pulled out of the story by any of the music, whether background music or music incorporated into the scene. Ghost in the Shell felt futuristic and yet familiar, especially with the Japanese influences scattered throughout. Sadly, a soundtrack wasn’t released (as of the time of this review). I plan to get the “Inspired by” album, however, as it has some really awesome tracks. It was even released digital only.

The parts that might be harder for Western audiences are the very Japanese scenes. Unless you are familiar with Japanese culture, there are a number of the scenes which may not make sense. I suspect this was a big factor in how (un)well the film did in the States. There were just too many subtle (and not-so-subtle) Japanese things for the film to really do well here. I think this also contributed to my enjoyment of the film.

As for the whole “whitewashing” controversy, I think it was overblown. The Ghost in the Shell story was designed around having the main character not look Japanese, and Scarlett Johansson did a great job. The film is set at least 30 years in the future, and Japan is becoming much more international now and looks to continue that trend. Additionally, Major’s cybernetic body (at least in the manga) was originally designed for a Western-style pleasurebot, so it makes sense it would look more Western.

Regardless of all of that, this was a fun film. I hope many more people go to see it. If you are on the fence, I encourage you to hop off and take the time to see it in theaters. If you had no plans to see it, change them and go see it. Ghost in the Shell isn’t the best film ever made, but it is a solid, enjoyable film that I plan to collect.

Release Date: March 31, 2017 (USA)
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Language: English, Japanese

MySF Rating: Four point zero stars
Family Friendliness: 65%

Content:

Alcohol/Drugs: 1 (some smoking, some social drinking)
Language: 2 (some stronger, regular mild and deity)
Nudity: 1 (brief, from back, when showing creation of shell, some skinless nudity)
Sexuality: 1 (hookers, dancers, mostly in passing)
Violence: 3 (some brutal violence, gunfights, frequent death)

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