Hollywood has released a movie adaptaion of the cyberpunk anime Ghost in the Shell. It was criticized by fans for choosing Scarlett Johansson for the role of major long before release. It is also earned criticism now for a deviation from the anime storyline And in the first minutes of the film, it seems that the fans were right. The plot of the film is not reminiscent of the original anime storyline.
Mira Killian is a cyborg. Her human body was deceased in a shipwreck. Hanka Corporation made her an ideal special unit. She serves in a Public Security Section 9 and fights cyber-crimes. The cyborg is haunted by the flashbacks. The cyber-terrorist Kuze alludes to her that the authorities have stolen her life. This is how a synopsis approximately looks like.
But it turns out that everything is not so bad. Rupert Sanders and script-writers make it clear that they know the anime very well. There are a lot of references to it. The Kuze terrorist was taken from the TV anime series “Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex”. Doctor and robot-geisha are from the full-length “Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence”. And the cult anime of Mamoru Oshii is quoted on every suitable occasion. We have here a lot of familiar scenes. A jump from the skyscraper, invisible thermal-camouflage, scuba diving, the pursuit of a garbage truck, fight in the water and a spider-tank. These scenes though are inscribed in another plot but are transferred almost a frame to the frame. And the characters themselves are gradually turning into the familiar ones from the anime. Bato gets his cyber-eyes implants and a basset hound as a pet. Appearance and the strange name of the major suddenly gets a meaningful explanation. The whole third act of the movie is one solid attempt to justify the fact that Motoko Kusanagi looks like Marvel’s Black Widow. That she calls herself Mira and sometimes behaves like Lucy from Luc Besson’s eponymous film.
But was it worth it to make a movie this way? First, piss off the fans with questionable casting. Then build an “apology scenario” around it. Both, the fans and ordinary viewers expected from the film not the excuses. They expected an interesting plot and the atmosphere of the original. Only the second is pull out to the full extent. The true and tense atmosphere is provided excellently. Low lingering music notes, long camera shots at high altitude , deep blue and black shadows — a recipe for goose bumps. The new Ghost in the Shell is a classic cyber-punk film with all its specific visual attributes. Giant holographic advertising, neon lights, slums, Chinese restaurants, running lines of code. Everything is according to the canons laid down by the Neuromancer and Blade Runner.
The Ghost in the Shell can be enjoyed as a video clip without thinking about the storyline. This is another trivial story about how a bad corporation has offended a good cyborg. The movie resembles a remake of the Robocop movie. Even the motives of the characters cause the same questions. Rupert Sanders and the company declined the over-complicated anime story. They did it in favor of Hollywood straightforwardness, illogicality, and genre stamps. Even the unexpected turn, typical enough for such films, is hinted at in the movie trailer. Rupert Sanders seems to have forgotten that the essence of cyberpunk is not only in holographic and neon advertising. But in an attempt to predict how high-technologies will affect us in the future. Anime of Mamoru Oshii did just that. It warned, philosophized, raised questions. The remake carefully reproduces the external attributes of the cyberpunk. But it doesn’t talk about the future and technologies. Also, the beautiful visuals lost its unique element of visual narrative. Great visuals became a pretty shell without deep meaning hidden inside. Major influence to the perception of this element is amazingly described by Nerdwriter in his video essay about Ghost in the Shell anime.
Hollywood adaptation of Ghost in the Shell is an excellent and beautiful entertainment. It is not a shame to spend the evening watching it. But unlike the anime, the only question you will ask is why they took Scarlett Johansson for the role of major. I rarely pick on the cast, but this time Scarlett Johansson has not coped with her role. Do you remember acting of Summer Glau in the TV series “Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles”? Do you remember Alicia Vikander acting in Ex Machina? These are the perfect examples of the ideal representation of the cyborg in the female guise. Batu played by Danish actor Pilou Asbæk looks better on the screen than the character of major.
Those who did not watch anime, won’t understand the movie in the true way. Even despite Hollywood’s simplicity and straightforwardness. Fans of anime most probably won’t like the film for the above-mentioned Hollywood related reasons. And also because of the deviation from the source and the unsuccessful cast for the main role. Yet, both of them can enjoy the excellent visuals in the cyberpunk setting. My expectations for this movie are not met, but still, it’s a decent attempt with a solid result. The cultural legacy of Masamune Shirow is alive and flourishing.
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