I came upon Mamoru Oshii’s Ghost in the Shell in college like it seems a lot of people did. I almost never watched anime growing up, save for a few episodes of Dragon Ball Z at my friend’s house in the late 90’s. What the 1995 Ghost in the Shell did was open up the idea of anime as serious art for me. Seriously cool stories set in seriously cool worlds could be told in this medium. If nothing else, Oshii’s version of this story is dripping with style. The 2017 version accurately translates that hyper-real (almost) Neo-Tokyo style into live action. The set design and CGI all add up to a phenomenally technicolor “cyber-punk” world.
Beyond nailing the style, this remake doesn’t bring much else to the table. It is simply a watered-down version of the 1995 original. In almost every conceivable way. I was shocked when I looked down at my ticket stub to see that the film was rated PG-13. I knew what I was in for from that moment on. A movie full of fights scenes pulling their punches and people getting “shot” off screen who seem to not have any blood in their body. Major moments from the original play out, and it is certainly fun to see them in live action, but it only made me want to watch the original again.
I will say Scarlett Johansson is great as Major and I really enjoyed her stilted take on the character. Michael Pitt did an admirable job as the villain. (who I guess is from the spin-off series?) They did some work with his voice that gave him a sinister timbre that I really enjoyed. There is a good movie to be made in this world, and hopefully they’ll get a shot at a sequel. But if those opening weekend numbers are any indication, we might have seen the last of ScarJo as Major.
Rating: *** out of five
Starring: Scarlett Johansson, Pilou Asbaek, Takeshi Kitano
Runtime: 107 minutes