Ghost in the Shell – Movie Review
PHOTO COURTESY PARAMOUNT PICTURES
Parental Guidance: Moderate to heavy graphic violence, disturbing images, not recommended for young children
Playing: Cineplex Odeon Carrefour Dorion, Cineplex Kirkland, Des Sources 10, Cinema 7 Valleyfield (subject to change)
Welcome to our new monthly movie review column. We kick things off with Ghost in the Shell, the sci-fi adventure starring Scarlett Johansson (Captain America: Civil War) and directed by Rupert Sanders (Snow White and the Huntsman).
Ghost in the Shell is a live-action “remake” of the groundbreaking animated movie of the same name released in 1995. The original animated version set the genre ablaze in the 90s with trendsetting visuals that became the standard for anime movies.
Like adaptations and remakes of original materials often do, this live-action version takes a lot of liberties with the source material. While such departures are often necessary, some directors can’t help messing with a good thing. However, the live-action version of Ghost in the Shell still stands on its own. This is due mostly to the charismatic portrayal of the main character, Major, by Johansson. Here is an actress that is working very hard to prevent being typecast as her Black Widow role in The Avengers movies. Ever since first starring alongside Robert Redford in The Horse Whisperer in 1993, and culminating in Lost in Translation in 2003, Johansson has shown extensive breath in her acting abilities. She has not been afraid to embrace the sci-fi genre, not only with her role as Black Widow in the Marvel superhero franchise, but in many other movies, including The Island, Her, and more recently in Luc Besson’s Lucy.
Ghost in the Shell could be a mere uninspiring cyber-techno visual feast if it wasn’t for the work of the actors. Juliette Binoche adds a heart-warming touch of humanity, and Takeshi Kitano, playing Johansson’s commanding office Aramaki, delivers a surprisingly endearing performance. Pilou Asbæk also portrays a very faithful rendition of Batou that die-hard anime fans will like. The original anime source material and the work of the cast breathe life into Ghost in the Shell, preventing it from being a mere uninspiring successor to a trove of previous female badass sci-fi action vehicles such as the faded Resident Evil and Evolution franchises.
In developing the visual world where Major lives and works, Sanders did not avoid any of the pitfalls that previously visually-heavy movies such as Tron: Legacy fell into where the sets steal the scene from the actors and the plot. The images are at times so heavy that they almost become nauseating, like a bad version of Blade Runners on drugs.
With the rabid invasion of cybernetics and computers into our daily lives, the timing of this live-action, updated version of Ghost in the Shell seems fitting. It may not say anything new on the subject, but Ghost in the Shell offers a very compelling ending.