Saturday, April 8, 2017

But I Digress...Ghost in the Shell: The Spirit Lives?

By Cat


Movie Name/Year: Ghost in the Shell (2017)
Tagline: None Available
Genre: Action, Crime, Drama, Sci-Fi
Length: 107 mins
Rating: PG-13
Production Companies: Arad Productions, DreamWorks, Grosvenor Park Productions, Huahua Media, Paramount Pictures, Reliance Entertainment, Seaside Entertainment, Shanghai Film Group, Steven Paul Production
Producers: Ray Angelic, Avi Arad, Holly Bario, Michael Costigan, Jane Evans, Tetsuya Fujimura, Mitsuhisa Ishikawa, Yoshinobu Noma, Steven Paul, Jeffrey Silver, Maki Terashima-Furuta
Director: Rupert Sanders
Writers: Shirow Masamune, Jamie Moss, William Wheeler, Ehren Kruger
Actors: Scarlett Johansson, Pilou Asbæk, Takeshi 'Beat' Kitano, Juliette Binoche, Michael Pitt, Chin Han, Danusia Sarnal, Lasarus Ratuere, Utaka Izumihara, Tawanda Manyimo, Peter Ferdinando, Anamaria Marinca
Stunt Doubles/Coordinators: Yoshinao Aonuma, Marius Botha, Rhianna Buchanan, Steven A. Davis, Amanda Fordham, Damian Halforty, Sarah Hart, Neal Horton, Russell Ingram, Axel Kremer, Ri-Jie Kwok, Guy Norris, Carly Rees, Lauriane Rouault, Gareth Ruck, Glenn Suter, Antony Szeto, Emily Tate, Jacob Tomuri, Min Windle, Tim Wong

I was so excited. I got to go see the new Ghost in the Shell movie today with my Dad. I realized then, that the focus of this week's article just had to be this movie. Hands down.

Ghost in the Shell (1995) was one of the first few Japanese Anime movies I’d ever seen. Akira (1988) was my first. I loved the original, and I adored the follow up animated series Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex (2002-2005) even more. This property is sacred ground for me. I even own the DVDs. Naturally, that gave me some initial reservations about a live-action movie.

When I first heard they were planning to make this movie, I had a grumbly moment (as most familiar with the originals have). Though, I do generally try to give things a chance to live up to the hype. When I began to see trailers and images released from production, I began to have hope.

Now, I’ll be upfront here and admit that I haven’t read the original manga that all of this was based on or around. To be honest, the only manga I’ve ever really read was a section of Bleach. (I got tired of waiting on Cartoon Network to show the next season of the animated series, so I read ahead.) So none of my comparisons to ‘the original’ are based on anything from the printed page. My frame of reference comes from the 1995 movie and the series alone.

That being said, let’s address the elephant in the room, shall we? I have heard so many outcries about ‘whitewashing’ in this movie and I’m, frankly, quite confused. I seriously doubt that those that are yelling the loudest about this are really thinking about the original animated properties. The entire Section 9 team was cobbled together from mixed ethnicities. Batou looks like a Scandinavian giant (which I give them big kudos for casting just such a guy as Pilou Asbæk (The Whistleblower, The Great Wall, Game of Thrones) in that role), Togusa looks and acts American, Saito and Ishikawa don’t exactly look Asian, either.

Has everyone forgotten that The Major’s body was a complete construct and it could look however they wanted it to? All told, Scarlett Johansson (Iron Man 2, Her, Lucy) was as much of a dead ringer for the cartoon version of Major Matoko Kusinagi as possible without CGI or prosthetics meddling.

Sufficed to say, I believe the casting here was just spot on. I loved the diversity, and it made so much sense.

Moving on.

The visuals they created for the movie were just absolutely stunning. It was a bit of an optical deluge at times, but it fits right in with the image of the future as presented in this cyberpunk dystopian world. There were so many lights and holograms that your eyes just want to bounce from one thing to the next. It was a brilliant upgrade from the simple signs cluttering the cityscape on screen in the animated movie.

I can confirm for you that they have really done a very good job in keeping the core iconic visuals of the original movie translated into the live-action world. From memorable scenes in the original to a shot of aircraft passing above buildings – they had all the important bits covered.
Now purists might get a bit mad at the plot – but hey, this is a movie remake. You can’t expect it to follow everything to the letter. I actually enjoyed what they eventually came up with. Now it wasn’t perfect, but I think it made for a good representation of the franchise. I re-watched the original movie before writing this review because I wanted to make sure I was right in my recollection. Some of the dialogue in the original was a little stilted – this new rendition smooths some of that out.

The plot runs something along the lines of taking the original movie and throwing it in a blender with the 2 seasons of the Stand Alone Complex series. There are many elements of movie, the puppet-master's ghost hacking, the laughing man, and discoveries from The Major’s past. They didn’t keep to the same origin story, which was something that did moderately bother me – but it wouldn’t be a deal breaker. The rest was just too engaging.

The final verdict? The Ghost, or spirit, of this story as represented by its core animated properties, is very much alive within the shell of this movie’s framework. Go watch it! If you love and want to see more cyberpunk movies like this in the future, we need to stand behind films like this.

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – 46%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – 62%

My Rating: 4/5 Stars

P.S. -  The closing credits feature the primary theme song from the original movie, ever so slightly mixed.

Lagniappe (something a little extra): The following was the trailer for the original 1995 movie.

Double Bonus! Below is the opening title sequence from the Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex animated series, featuring the song Inner Universe by Origa. I actually had a segment of this MP3 as my ringtone for many years.

But I Digress... is a weekly column for that can't be pinned down to just one thing. It's Cat's celebration of tangents, random references, and general fan geekdom that both intertwines with, revolves around, and diverges from our movie-review core. In homage to the beloved Brit comedians, we want to bring you something completely different!

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