GHOST IN THE SHELL
Film Review by Fiore
Once again, I had the ability to see GHOST IN THE SHELL without knowing anything about the character or the storyline. As such, I can say I enjoyed this movie, which was really a mishmash of several high profile sci-fi classics. GHOST IN THE SHELL is based on an Anime cartoon series. Anime fanboys tend to be more vociferous than Marvel fanboys, so their overall reaction should be taken with a very large grain of salt. For my part, this movie combined enough weird sci-fi/fantasy elements and action to make it well worth viewing.
It is the future, and the distinctive line between man and machine is diminishing rapidly. Most humans are robotically enhanced. Imagine having the ability to enhance any element of your body. (Okay, now get your mind out of the gutter; though that’s what I thought of, too.) So, the average schmuck you encounter can have enhanced abilities you may not want to contend with, depending on the circumstances.
Given this scenario, the industrial military complex (naturally, there can never be another antagonist in the minds of Hollywood) want to take enhancement a step further. They design a complete artificial life (AI) robot, and simply drop a human brain into the apparatus. The concept is to have an unstoppable weapon, with the ability to think, reason and make human decisions in the field.
The first of these AI weapons is Major, played by Scarlett Johansson. She is the supreme warrior, feeling no pain, with the ability to teleport and bend space. She commands a team of mercenaries that includes: Batou (Pilou Asbeak); Han (Chin Han); Ladriya (Danusia Samal); and Ishikawa (Lasarus Ratuere). They are all under the tutelage of Aramaki, played by Takeshi Kitano, a wise old warrior, much in the vein of Yoda. The merc team is very similar to Michael Biehn’s team in ALIENS.
Major is nearly a carbon copy of Peter Weller’s ROBOCOP, except with the enhanced ability to teleport. In fact, the central conflict in GHOST IN THE SHELL is exactly the same as ROBOCOP. Major begins to remember her past, and her memories of the past are interfering with her functions. As an AI, she must come to terms with what she is, and who she was. This will alter her belief system and her loyalties. The key plot point is Major’s discovery that she is indeed, not the first of her kind. There are others, and they all share a bond. Like Will Smith’s I, ROBOT, this is a familiar theme to robot movies, so viewers will feel comfortable with it, while enjoying the enhanced SFX.
1.1 KEY SCENES TO LOOK FOR:
1. THE ATTACK ON THE AFRICAN AMBASSADOR
2. SWIMMING WITH THE JELLYFISH
3. THE HEALING OPERATION
Technically, GHOST IN THE SHELL looks great. The futuristic city is filled with moving things, and all free air space is filled with advertisements. In this, the city looks like and copies stylings from Harrison Ford’s BLADE RUNNER. Credit Production Designer Jan Roelfs with the look.
Jamie Moss and William Wheeler handle the screenplay based on the comic by Masamune Shirow. They do a fine job introducing the characters, setting up the plot and then keeping within the established framework.
Jess Hall provides sound cinematography, though the dreaded close-up quick editing action sequences are used, and, as always, it is a major distraction. There is actually no reason for this. Richard Norton, martial artist extraordinaire and close compatriot of Chuck Norris, serves as the fight choreographer. So, the only reason for this type of cinematography is to mask the actors’ inability to dedicate enough time, like Keanu Reeves in the JOHN WICK series, to actually learn the moves.
Once again, I’ll state my editor theory: more than one editor on a film detracts from the overall message. GHOST IN THE SHELL utilizes two editors, Billy Rich and Neil Smith. There are key segments in the second act, and yes, even one in the third, which drag. It is a bit unsettling because, until these scenes, the film just flies.
Overall, Director Rupert Sanders helms a decent sci-fi flick that has enough purloined elements from other films to emit an air of comfort, especially for a movie more seeped in Japanese culture.
Let’s take a look at the report card for GHOST IN THE SHELL:
ACTING = C
CINEMATOGRAPHY = B
SOUND/MUSIC = A
EDITING = C
LIGHTING = B
SCRIPT = B
SFX = A
ACTION = A
Without the chains of familiarity of the GHOST IN THE SHELL comic, I was able to enjoy this movie version. It looks impressive on the big screen, and if you have the chance, see it in 3D.