Even ignoring the anime adaptation, Rupert Sanders’ take on Ghost in the Shell feels like well-trodden ground. Many (or all) of the film’s stylistic cues feel borrowed, whether it’s the gratuitous slow-mo of Dredd, or the neon-drenched retro-futurism and cultural mishmash of Blade Runner. Clint Mansell’s reliable score feels like a leftover from his far more memorable work for The Neon Demon. We’re pretty sure we even saw the opening in the 2011 video game Deus Ex: Human Revolution (which also explores themes of transhumanism). Ghost in the Shell just doesn’t quite bring enough of its own to the table, and when you consider that this story has been told before, it’s difficult to muster up a lot of enthusiasm for it.
Of course, these methods are being aped for a reason: they’re still fairly entertaining. Ghost in the Shell does provide the occasional thrill – there is some very pretty photography in this film, plus some weird and wonderful set and costume design.
Anyone who enjoys a bit of cyberpunk will find something to appreciate in there, even if it feels like a standard thriller with a different coat of paint. Scarlett Johansson is compelling as the character of Major, which is unsurprising given that this isn’t the first time she has played a role that walks the line between human and Other (Under the Skin, Her). It’s a shame then that her supporting cast, and the rest of the film, feels so hollow.
Slick visuals, interesting design and ScarJo can’t save Ghost in the Shell from mediocrity, as the film makes either bizarre or boring narrative choices (see: how often “ghost” and “shell” are said in the same 60 seconds), and fails to make the most of its setting. Seems the best stuff got lost in translation.
CAST: Scarlett Johansson, Takeshi Kitano, Michael Pitt, Pilou Asbæk, Chin Han, Juliette Binoche
DIRECTOR: Rupert Sanders
WRITERS: Jamie Moss (screenplay); Masamune Shirow (based on the manga by)
SYNOPSIS: 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.