There’s been a bit of controversy over Ghost in the Shell, and many other Americanized filmed that have recently released. Why? Well, some would call it whitewashing while others plainly say it doesn’t match the source material. I saw an article not too long ago that more Americans are complaining about the whole American-playing-the-Japanese-character thing than actual Japanese people. The Japanese, for the most part, don’t care. They believe as I do, that as long as it tells a good story, who really cares about who plays the lead? That being said, I’m slightly known for my distaste for anime. I just don’t care for them, so as far as ScarJo playing this character, I was all for it. She’s talented enough as an action star, so why not? Let’s get into what this movie is about.
“In the near future, Major Motoko Kusanagi (Scarlett Johansson) is the first of her kind: A human saved from a terrible terrorist attack, who is cyber-enhanced to be a perfect soldier devoted to stopping the world’s most dangerous criminals. When terrorism reaches a new level that includes the ability to hack into people’s minds and control them, Major Kusanagi is uniquely qualified to stop it. As she prepares to face a new enemy, Major Kusanagi discovers that she has been lied to: her life was not saved, it was stolen. She will stop at nothing to recover her past, find out who did this to her and stop them before they do it to others.”
Written by Paramount Pictures (IMDb)
Having no real knowledge of the anime that started this film, the first thing that came to mind was Inspector Gadget but dealt with seriously. Or, I guess you could probably say RoboCop as well. The idea of somebody that has been through some kind of attack that has left them all but dead, used as an experiment for a robotics company to be the first of their kind – half human, half cyborg. The idea alone isn’t super original, it’s how they tell the story that instead feels original. For instance, Ghost in the Shell ultimately feels original – which is certainly a good thing. That paves way for the rest of the film, which feels truly odd and spectacular – almost as if it takes place on another planet, but it doesn’t. It’s just super science-fiction-y and takes place in the future.
That’s just my immediate impression, though. Let’s go ahead and break Ghost in the Shell down to take a look at all of the good and bad it has to offer. Let’s interpret the stars!
PEOPLE SCORE – 7/10
Acting – 1|Characters – 2|Casting – 1|Importance – 2|Chemistry – 1
Come to think of it, there wasn’t much about the people category that ultimately impressed me other than the characters, and the importance those characters had in the film. Those two subcategories are indeed important overall, but the rest of this category was mostly skimmed through. The acting itself was fine, and you’ll never think it’s terrible, although you’ll never consider it great, either. That’s because the film focuses really deeply on visuals and things going on behind-the-scenes than making this category super special. I gave casting half points, not because of the whole American thing, but because nothing screamed out – best actor for the role. As for chemistry, once again, it wasn’t very high on the list of anyone’s priorities to have any of the characters really bond on a deep level – other than maybe one character – which just wasn’t enough.
WRITING SCORE – 9/10
Dialogue – 1|Balance – 2|Story – 2|Originality – 2|Interesting – 2
The writing category, on the other hand, did a good job at remaining well-done. The only thing that didn’t really stand out for me was the dialogue, but that’s okay because everything else did. As much stuff that was going on throughout the film, it was always about one mystery and what that mystery means to the one character, which is ultimately a very balanced story. The story itself, or mystery I should say, was pretty unique and unpredictable, which makes the film feel original, as I said before, even if it’s not completely original. Finally, is it interesting? It’s really hard to say no for this, as there’s not much to complain about.
BTS SCORE – 9/10
Visuals – 2|Directing – 2|Editing – 2|Advertisement – 2|Music – 1
It’s another near-perfect score found behind-the-scenes. I’m not entirely sure why, but nothing really impressed me with the soundtrack for Ghost in the Shell. I have actually heard good things about it, but nothing really screamed, “Buy Soundtrack!” for me, sorry. The visuals are top-notch, though. I believe this will work for people that both love and hate 3D films – so it doesn’t need it, but it probably helps. Both the directing and editing had elements that were, in fact, noticeable as both challenging and complicated in the best possible ways. The director had a pretty obvious visual eye when it came to utilizing camera work and lighting. The editor, likewise, had a lot on his plate when it came to flashbacks and editing those flashbacks into the modern world. I swear there was also a classic glitch in the matrix early on. Weird. I would also consider this film as-advertised. So, this was a pretty great category overall.
NARRATIVE ARC SCORE – 9/10
Introduction – 1|Inciting Incident – 2|Obstacles – 2|Climax – 2|Falling Action – 2
Another 9/10 score for the narrative arc category and the missing one percent is in a weird spot for narrative arc, that’s found in the introduction. The introduction itself really deals with a quick title card, which really isn’t enough for this sort of thing, as it truly opens up on the inciting incident, Major being shelled – this also doubles for the crossing of the threshold moment, where there’s no going back – which makes for a perfect inciting incident. The obstacles really come down to the mystery and following the clues to her actual history. The climax comes down to a great culmination of initial events, and the falling action does its job as well. There is falling action with a return to a new norm, so everything here worked out rather perfectly.
ENTERTAINMENT SCORE – 7/10
Rewatchability – 2|Fun – 2|Impulse/Buy – 1|Impulse/Talk – 0|Sucks you in – 2
I would say that, in general, Ghost in the Shell is remarkably entertaining and done well on a technical level. I consider it very rewatchable, as I would personally go out searching for the film to see it again. The fun you’ll have while watching this film is pretty much non-stop and it’ll never have a single issue sucking you in for the ride. However, I don’t think I’d buy it. I didn’t have that big of a connection with it in order to consider purchasing it, though I wouldn’t mind owning it. I also don’t think it blew my mind enough to tell others about it, so there’s that. Take that as you will.
TOTAL SPECIAL – 50/50
Action – 10|Mystery – 10|Adaptation – 10|ScarJo – 10|Halfway Decent – 10
Now for the final five questions that I wrote before seeing the film. First and foremost, how is the action in this film? It is honestly impressive and at times, surprising, totally worth the full points. It is also classified as a mystery and adaptation film, so how do those hold up? The mystery is ultimately unguessable, especially if you’re unfamiliar with the classic story, which I was unfamiliar. As for being an adaptation, I’ve never seen the original, nor could I really tell that it was an adaptation. It felt like a movie telling a great story and never once felt like it was trying too hard to keep elements from another story in as well, so this also gets full points. Also, how was this as a film for Scarlett Johansson? I have to say it’s an immediately memorable film for her career, so full points there. Finally, was it halfway decent? I would have to say that it was easily halfway decent and they did what they intended to do from the beginning, so bravo!