It’s always difficult for a remake of a beloved film to please audiences – despite exceptions like Scarface and The Fly, there are way too many colossal failures to side with the reasoning behind why remakes should exist.
The live action remake of Ghost in the Shell, an incredibly popular manga of the same name, always had an uphill task, and though it is a pale shadow of the source material, surprisingly it doesn’t completely disappoint as an entertaining action movie.
Directed by Rupert Sanders who made Snow White and the Huntsman and got himself in a lot of trouble for it for his behind the scenes antics, Ghost in the Shell carries a giant controversy on its own.
There’s just no escaping the white washing in the casting of Scarlett Johansson as a cyberpunk Japanese manga heroine.
Luckily, the film, right with its stunningly photographed opening scene, quickly makes you forget about this controversy and dive right into the visually resplendent action.
We’re introduced to a futuristic world full of cybernetics and humans trying to upgrade their limbs with robotics replacements. Public Security Section 9 is a shady organisation running agents and uses cybernetics to its own advantage. Johansson plays Major, a new recruit in the organisation whose brain was encapsulated in a robotic body after a near fatal accident.
After an assassination attempt goes wrong she stumbles upon clues that leads to the information about her life before she was turned into a robot. She then deflects and goes on a rampage to find out the truth, leaving a trail of destruction.
Needless to say, fans of the 1995 film are going to loathe this remake, or at the very least walk into this film with an undercurrent of pessimism. In their defence there’s little in the film to make them prefer this version over the previous one.
Dramatically this is a weaker movie, and the ingenuity is lost in translating the cyberpunk palette the original so beautifully executed thanks to the manga artwork. Moreover, the humans are second fiddle here because Sanders clearly has more flair for CGI than character development.
On the flip side, the surprising aspect here is that Sanders really does try very hard to both pay homage to the source material, and establish his own vision – an incredibly hard feat.
This is not an average cash grab designed purely to cash in on a known brand name, but the work of a genuine artist whose fandom for the source material results in an inspired action flick with gorgeous visuals. As a standalone action movie it delivers the goods – most of the action sequences, set in red blue shimmering neon are eye popping.
The whole world feels like an electric nightmare of sorts and it’s hard not to be swayed by the unsubtle commentary on the parallels between the evil futuristic corporations in the film and the narcissistic behaviour of present day real life organizations.
Taken as a pure action movie and an enjoyable thrill ride with a butt kicking Scarlett Johansson clad in body hugging outfits, Ghost in the Shell is serviceable fare, and definitely worth your effort to head to the theater.
As a bonus those not familiar with the original film can watch it right after reading this review by me and figure out for themselves which version worked better.
CAST: Scarlett Johansson, Michael Pitt, Takeshi Kitano, Pilou Asbæk, Chin Han, Juliette Binoche
DIRECTION: Rupert Sanders
DURATION: 1 hour 45 minutes