I remember watching the Ghost in the Shell anime feature film when I was teenager. That’s about all I remember. I’ve never been all that knowledgeable about the series, but I also cannot deny how Hollywood has an “illustrious” history of royally destroying anime licenses with feature films, a la Dragonball: Evolution and many others. Anime has not translated into good films in North America, but Ghost in the Shell really had promise in my eyes when I saw the first trailer. It looked beautiful, I didn’t feel like anything crazy was being changed, it was definitely worth a look.
And I am so happy to tell you, at least as an anime fan who knows of Ghost in the Shell…this film was absolutely fantastic!
I don’t know how I’d feel about it if I was a hardcore Ghost in the Shell fan, I really don’t know if there were any minor details they fucked up, anything that would be considered insulting to fans of the series. But from my perspective, I felt like this film took the anime with respect and gave it the time to build its world to an audience completely new to the series, let alone it’s cyberpunk world.
The biggest thing everyone held their hats on was Scarlett Johannson “whitewashing” the role of Motoko Kusanagi. Needless to say, she does a fantastic job as the Major and without spoiling anything, the film actually does a really good job at shutting up those who were mad about the whole “whitewashing” of the film. In terms of the rest of the cast, I think the best thing I can say is that no one stands out over the other, they’re all equally as good. “Beat” Takeshi Kitano takes the full-Japanese voicing role and does it very well as the Chief, Pilou Asbaek does a really good job as Batou, though admittedly the eyes looked a little weird. No one is really a weak character I felt, including the villain of Kuze, played by Michael Pitt, the entire cast was either good or really good.
Story-wise, I can’t say too much about it either without spoiling it or because the early stages of the film is a bit of a whirlwind. Suffice to say, once the story really kicks in, it gets really interesting, but because I’m not spoiling it here (that section will be here) I won’t get too deep into it. Initially, the story is a typical sci-fi crime epic, lots of fighting, a hacking scene, some assassinations, all that jazz. What really sells the film is the questions posed by society throughout the film about what the line is for us as humans when it comes to changing ourselves. I truly believe this is the distant future, us replacing part of our bodies with cybernetic parts, but this message can even go further down to plastic surgery and things like that. The question posed throughout the movie is pretty simple: How much of you is you? And how far do you have to go before you’re not you anymore?
What really sells the film for me at least was the visual aspects of the film. Holy freaking hell is this film gorgeous, from the background, the buildings, the characters, all of it. Yes, Scarlett Johannson spending the majority of the film in a skin-tight suit plays a part in this. If there’s a movie this year that really impresses me with its overall visual vision, this will be one of those films. We’ll see how I feel about it after I watch Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets though.
I can’t really say much more without spoiling it, I really can’t. All I can tell you is that if you have any interest in this film, check it out! If you’re a fan of Ghost in the Shell, while I don’t know specifically all the things the movie did right and wrong from the anime, I think it’s worth your time as well. This was a far better film than I expected and it makes me excited for the next anime-based project.
Well…at least until they fuck that one up.