Ghost in the Shell (2017)

Below is a review of one of my favorite films, but I recognize why that would be a controversial opinion. I wanted to share this review as the movie follows a theme of stylistic, sci fi action films with female protagonists, a series of reviews that began with my viewing of Kate. This review was only proofread for grammar and typos, as my opinion on the film has not changed.

On Remakes

It’s always tough to remake a classic fan favorite. There’s pressure to make a fantastic movie from the producers, the fans, the original creator and yourself. The director has to cater to the old fans, appeal to the new, reach a wide audience, create something tasteful, deliver an homage and forge a way ahead to expand the universe. Too often, the a cascading series of bad decisions leads to a fairly subpar film, greatly disserving every party involved. 

Star Wars: The Force Awakens has many similarities with Ghost in the Shell not because of the story or any sci fi elements, but because of the task the film was entrusted with. Both had similar ideas to build off a preexisting universe, deliver a gripping story, appease the existing fans, respect the original work and create an adventure tale that would enthrall a new generation of fans, raking in millions for the studio. TFA had a massive budget, the full support of Disney, and an army of creative geniuses all working towards the above goals. There was no doubt that this film would fail, given the sheer amount of effort thrown its way. Yet, the film left something left to be desired. 

I know you tried your best, little guy.

Ghost in the Shell derives from a similar sprawling, complex, thought-provoking series of stories, which sets the bar very high. The sea of fans, foaming at the mouths, entitled to the film they deserved, the barrage of trigger happy online social justice experts, and armchair film critics all led to the less than stellar reception of this film. 

Truth be told, Rupert Sanders has done a very good job and delivers a quality product. The movie is a blend of two classic tales, told clearly and concisely, so as not to confuse younger or newer audiences, yet it still delves into the classic philosophical questions poised, including what it means to be human, how much you can take away and still be considered human, or how technology’s growth harms humanity. 

There’s enough modern sci fi action to satisfy action fans. Nothing too fancy, but still something worth watching. The CGI helps build a crisp, sparkling landscape, interspersed with the grime and grind of what most people would experience. The world building is subtle, but intricate, with enough sci fi to show how different this world is than ours, while still maintaining a certain human aspect to it. 

Hollywood sucks at High Level Sci Fi

Ghost in the Shell unfortunately suffers from a truly terrible script, with dialogue ripped from the most cliche, plastic, low effort works. There’s not much originality in what’s said, how it’s said and what it pertains to. A character is shown early on who morally rejects cyborg implementations, but the entire interaction between him and an augmentation enthusiast is so forced, so fake and so obviously staged that it pulls you out of the film and makes you realize that you’re watching a movie. You never want that to happen in a film.

There’s a difficulty in trying to present deep, complex, philosophical questions to a mainstream audience due to the fact that it takes time and a certain simplicity to lay the groundwork of what is, to later ask the question of what should be or what could be. Science fiction is the perfect genre to present large, societal questions, regarding what humanity should do, how it should do it, what further issues we’d encounter, and what current issues we’ll solve. The inevitable evolution of technology gives us a vast, innumerable number of possibilities, which is why the genre fascinates so many people. It allows the storyteller more room to maneuver, creating or explaining the issues or lack thereof, all the while captivating the audience’s attention.

There’s many, many examples of similar unimaginative, sterile dialogue, in very staged settings, with very bland interactions. There’s a scene where the Major rediscovers her mother, and two share a calm moment together, slowly realizing who the other person is. Except there’s no tension, no realism, no authenticity to the scene. It’s so very obviously acted that you already know what’s going to happen. You’ve already stopped caring. There’s no emotion, just an exchange of dialogue in order to tell us that the plot is moving along. The actors are telling us what to feel and why to feel it, instead of showing us.

I mean look at how gorgeous this scene is. It’s impossible to do it justice.

There’s a lot that went right with this movie, and the product that was delivered was much better than it had any right to be. There’s an almost unholy mixing of old ideas, homages to the originals, spells of creative new ideas, and a layer underneath what’s shown, meant to be understood. It’s easy to misunderstand the film, and it’s completely fair to say that whatever depth or value I find in this film is just me reaching in order to validate this work. It’s entirely fair to say that this movie insults the original work, steals beautiful imagery from the anime without understanding it, and is a run of the mill reboot designed to rake in profits. 

I wanna ghost in your shell 😉

There’s a lot that can be said about this movie, and it’s apparent there was definitely a lot of work and thought put into it, and it’s also fair to say that there wasn’t. This ambiguity is what really captivates me about this movie, and it’s what solidifies it as absolute art, in my mind. 8/10. I haven’t mentioned this due to this review running very long, but the music is absolutely stellar, and it’s a damn shame they didn’t officially release the soundtrack. 

You can stream Ghost in the Shell on PlutoTV, or rent it from wherever you rent movies.

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