GHOST IN THE SHELL Movie Review: How to Stay A Human In The Cyborgs World

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GHOST IN THE SHELL: Movie Review - Photo credit: hdqwalls, edition by Amber255 via bitLanders

The future has long been an interesting theme to the fiction writers of various sizes, and in some cases, they achieved a high level of thought and form. With the development of technology, it seems that the world is moving too fast, and not the fact is that it will end very well. What you will create if to put a human brain in a robot's artificial body?

The cyber-biological robots in fantastic films now appear as often as vampires in horror thrillers. Well, whatever we want when robots started to enter our lives. 

In 1995, when Japanese cartoon, manga, virus spread throughout the world, and the films of such ranks were created constantly, the cinema screens featured a full-length fantasy film Ghost in the Shell. It was not really for a child's audience: it could be described as an original hybrid of a political thriller, a philosophical film, and a fantastic cyberpunk film. Under intense action, the film had a powerful cultural context that allowed the most important ideas to interpret on a wide scale, from Shinto symbolism to fashionable postmodern puzzles.

We wanted a film that played well to a big cinema and played well to a big audience. But I think ultimately the film will be most enjoyed in years to come, and I think that’s a testament to the work that the actors did and the incredible group of people that helped make it. - Rupert Sanders

Credit: puregrainaudio

Even the Wachowski Brothers admitted having borrowed a lot from Ghost in the Shell, and their famous Matrix is full of Japanese manga discoveries that are incredibly impressive in feature cinema. The new American GHOST IN THE SHELL can be boldly placed in the Matrix cycle of films, both for spiritual affinity and for attempts to give a vivid form to the nightmare of cyberspace. 

The story of a film depicting the near future is even more relevant in the light of current events because the already fantastic rapid spread of technology cannot protect people from malicious hacker attacks. 

GHOST IN THE SHELL is a film of the cyberpunk film genre that is rarely seen. This is a genre born on comic book pages - a blend of science fiction, retro-futurism, and anti-utopia, depicting the fall of humanity in the background of technological progress and computerization.

GHOST IN THE SHELL Official Trailer #1- Video credit: youtube

The Plot 

The film's action develops in 2029. After Maira Kilian was killed during the terror act, the Japanese company Hanka Robotic, which is developing artificial intelligence programs, turned the girl into a cyber-creature. In future Japan, Hanka Robotic is a leader in cyborg technology research and production. Now the girl has a simple name Major (Scarlett Johansson), and she is leading the Special Forces Unit - Ninth Division. 

The aim of her and her colleagues is to combat cyber criminals, malicious hackers, the most dangerous extremists and psychopaths who are developing daily. The main enemy of the 9th Division fighters is the mysterious Mr. Aramaki (Takeshi Kitano), perhaps the most important puppeteer of the shadow world with extraordinary abilities in the use of political manipulation and keeping in his hands all the criminal activities' threads.

The Ninth Division is challenged by Mr. Aramaki seeking to destroy Hanka Robotic and its artificial intelligence development program. Now the threat arises not only to the order of the city or country but also to the life of Major. Following the footsteps of the enemy, Major learns more and more details about her own human past.

Cyberpunk film GHOST IN THE SHELL - Photo credit: imdb

The Content 

The audience awaited new Rupert Sanders film for a very long time, as it is one of the rare projects in Hollywood, based on Japanese art, and more specifically on the manga and the anime genre film project, which appeared in 1995. Of course, those people who aren't familiar with the original will take the film in a completely different way than they should, so ratings can jump up because, overall, this movie looks really exclusive compared to other cyberpunk film genre projects.

But as a remake of the animated version of the Ghost In The Shell, it is a poor and a totally unimaginable project whose biggest problem is the screenwriters and the inability to work with the material provided by another world culture.

The storyline of the movie is very simple, but it can also be fascinating because the action shown in the story's development is not boring. From the beginning to the end of the film, there are enough good action scenes that, of course, resemble already seen films of a similar nature, such as the cult Matrix.

Action drama GHOST IN THE SHELL - Photo credit: imdb

The film's story got some critics - it doesn't match the storyline of the first part of the GHOST IN THE SHELL but is a blend of the best parts of this anime franchise. And, of course, everything is presented according to Hollywood standards, leaving no free thought to the viewer. Sworn fans would say that the philosophy of the GHOST IN THE SHELL was chewed and served to a dull viewer.

Although the film does not follow the original anime storyline carefully, it retains a respectful relationship with this piece, reproducing several of its scenes in detail. In addition, the scriptwriters were able to create a rather original story that even complements the Major's character.

The storyline of a fantastic anti-utopian with powerful twists of action is led by two parallel stories. One of them is dedicated to the fight against criminals in a world where the boundary between humans and biological robots has been eroded.

And in the second story, the philosopher would call "human, very human": no matter how twisted into the whirlwind of death, Major solves her own drama of identification and tries to understand what it is - a human being or just the brains in a cyber body?

Science Fiction Film GHOST IN THE SHELL - Photo credit: interestblend.blogspot

And there is deleted the parallel between the anime and the feature film. Oh, Rupert Sanders, do you think the viewer is foolish and won't understand the existential issues raised in the anime version? Will not understand the boundaries between the soul and the cyber spirit? Will not understand loneliness poetry when you are the first of its kind?  It is very likely that a simple viewer would not understand the stronger and more serious themes of awareness of soul and identify raised on anime, but this way to cheapen and simplify such a deep history is a crime.

I'll explain why I am angry. Because I saw a distorted story; it has become a typical identity crisis. And the original GHOST IN THE SHELL is not about that. The Essential Line - Can a Synthetic Mind Gain a Soul?

And this issue disappears completely in Sanders' version, and anime fans quietly cry in the corner, as the main storyline remains ignored. Even more, replaced a pair of characters, put a more sophisticated detective line and a specific bad guy - Kuze.

The action consists of several parts - collisions where Major manages to control her fists perfectly and instantly cope with the opponents and quite hard-looking shootings. All this enliven the movie preview. And I want to admit that the action is arranged in a very orderly manner, that I felt both the tension and the enjoyment of the scenes shown.

Science fiction film GHOST IN THE SHELL - Photo credit: medium

The Characters - Human In The Robot's Body

Major Mira (Scarlett Johansson) is exclusive - her whole body is just armor for the only human detail - the brain. Doctor Ouelet (Juliette Binoche), who supervises her, helps to go through the process of self-realization, adapting to a robotic body. Since the Major's body is the property of Hanka and is their most powerful weapon, it is no surprise that a year later, she works in the 9th sector - the counterterrorism unit subordinated to both Hanka and the Japanese government. 

True, Major does not remember anything about her past when she was a human, and the past's interferences persecute her.

Major : [narrating] My mind is human. My body is manufactured. I'm the first of my kind, but... I won't be the last. We cling to memories as if they define us. But what we do defines us. My ghost survived to remind the next of us... that humanity is our virtue. I know who I am... and what I'm here to do.

 Credit: imdb

After colliding with a mysterious hacker, Kuze, the visions of the past are getting stronger, and she is questioning her condition - is she more a man or a robot? Where is the line separating her from fully computerized creatures, and why she does not feel like a real person?

The only her friend, Batou, supports her and is close by her, helping to realize and understand where humanity lies.

bitLanders AI-themed blogging: GHOST IN THE SHELL movie review - Photo credit: twitter

Scarlett Johansson was perfect for incarnating a girl who sometimes doesn’t understand how much was left of a living person in her. Sometimes she is unemotional and cold, like a robot, but sometimes a timid smile or jokes with Batou fill the heroine with life. She's like the female version of the Terminator, a robot that learns to be human. Although in the case of Major, it would be more correct to be a person who tries not to become a robot.

The Major character is not fully revealed. Only fighting scenes where she participates look great. But the psychological portrait of the character and her experiences after knowing the truth about herself remain somewhere outside the screens.

Unfortunately, everything was mashed into one Major's perspective, without any explanation of the cyber world and the human subconscious in it. And everything seemed so cold, so dead, that it wasn't even interesting to watch Major's self-awareness and her desire to find out all the truth about past and similar organisms. It is a pity, but such a rich and beautiful world, where the main heroes of this story live, was worthy of a broader approach.

bitLanders AI-themed blogging: GHOST IN THE SHELL movie review - Photo credit: kinephanos

The Actors 

Scarlett Johansson does not stop surprising us by her roles that are really so different. It is a great pleasure for a talented actress to test herself in a difficult amplitude, which often forces her to abandon humanity and release her imagination thinking about what if.

I already mentioned that the choice of the main actor Scarlet Johansson was criticized sharply. Perhaps most agree that Scarlett is a great actress, but people have been not happy about her race. Why not an Asian woman, not a Japanese? This thing, in fact, most disturbed not white people but Japanese. For some fans of the anime GHOST IN THE SHELL, this choice has become a scandal, a commercial trick to gain profit.

Cyberpunk film GHOST IN THE SHELL - Photo credit: Twitter

As for the choice of the main actress, Scarlett (Major) did a great job, like Pilou Asbæk (Batou) and Michael Pitt (Kuze). The choice of western actors even gave the film new ideas (which were not enjoyed by everyone).

I was very pleased that Aramaki's role was played by my favorite Japanese actor, Takeshi Kitano, who spoke Japanese (a great solution, without having to force an actor to talk in a broken English language, giving the film a good spice).

Juliette Binoche also becomes a dessert for the eyes, and she is a researcher at Hanka Robotics who created Major.

All other characters and actors are totally uninteresting, empty, without any charisma.

Action drama GHOST IN THE SHELL - Photo credit: 4kzuo.blogspot

The Technical Side

One of the greatest advantages of this film, which just makes it worth to go to the cinema, is the special effects. These are high-quality, eye-catching, and even very real-looking special effects that are able to surprise you during the preview. When you remember the battle scene in the water, you want to watch it again. This aesthetically presented film's exterior form rescues many times from the shameful misunderstandings on the storyline that the director and screenwriters would have to apologize to the mango fans.

The visual part is one of the few things that many movie viewers like. Special effect creators put a lot of efforts by combining real masks or metropolitan images with computer graphics. There's a lot in the movie such moments but not too much.

The breathtaking images, unexpected corners of the camera, wonderful costumes, details, the environment, and computer graphics catch the eyes. Some frames are identical to the frames seen in the anime version. They are perfectly reproduced, captured, and played wonderfully. Sanders catches the core of the drama that takes place between poverty and technology and enchants it.

GHOST IN THE SHELL Trailer #2- Video credit: youtube

From luminous glass to multi-story and shimmering city lights, where the flow of information is constantly flowing, he drops the viewer into underground clubs, fallen and abandoned buildings, and everyday lives of ordinary people, dominated by silence.

The work of the camera, which also plays a very important role in the film, is perfect for showing the action scenes and heroic clashes. The episodes of the slow-motion style, where the main heroes beat down bad guys, are particularly well filmed. Similarly, wider shots that show the city panorama created by CGI are able to impress and allow themselves to dive into this cyber world, where a natural-looking man becomes a great rarity.

And although there is tension in the film, it is created thanks to the camera work and special effects, fires, and fights, but not as often is in such films - by the soundtrack. The musical accompaniment of the film is very bleak and does not cause any tension even in the hottest scenes. 

The video editing work is quite good, so the story doesn't look very scattered but has a solid storyline. Sound editing is strong; especially in action scenes you can feel all its power and at the same time get some adrenaline.

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On A Final Note 

This is not the real GHOST IN THE SHELL that I would have liked to see on the screen with that real problem of evolution. It is not a subtle screening that could develop the contradiction of robotization and soul. And this, unfortunately, is becoming a major problem in the film.

Those who haven't seen the anime version will like this movie, maybe even very much. It's beautiful, interesting, unusual, colorful, unexpected, and made the way a good Hollywood movie has to be created.

GHOST IN THE SHELL - visually appealing and even fascinating for its action scenes, great actors, camera work, and inventive special effects. But with its content, directing, and presentation of ideas, the film is just a regrettable shadow of the cultic anime of 1995.

GHOST IN THE SHELL Movie Review - Photo credit: hdqwalls

The main merit of the original is the plot ahead of its time, the problems of which are still relevant: do organizations program our perception of reality and what is a man. A remake fails to convey that message and thoughts to the same extent, but this does not make the film bad.

Since cyberpunk film is a rare guest in our time, the GHOST IN THE SHELL is worthy of viewing. Moreover, there really is something to see, but, unfortunately, there is nothing to think about.

Dr. Ouelet : You're not invulnerable. I can repair your body, but I can't protect your mind.

Major : Why not? You can see all my thoughts, so... you should be able to secure them.

Dr. Ouelet : Try and understand your importance, Mira. You're what everyone will become one day.

Major : You don't know how alone that makes me feel.

 Credit: imdb.

My rating: 6.0/10
Rotten Tomatoes: 43/100
Metacritic: 52/100
Critics average: 51/100
IMDb: 6.4/10

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