Suzanne Buchholz, Senior Reporter
DreamWorks’ Ghost in the Shell is a live-action remake of the anime movie from 1995. Fans of the original movie might question if the remake remains true to the source material, especially after some early backlash regarding casting. The answer is no, it doesn’t closely resemble the original film, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t a good movie based on its own merits.
The movie takes place in what appears to be a futuristic version of Japan, where humans now have the ability to enhance themselves with cybernetic pieces thanks to Hanka Robotics, the world’s leading producer of robotic parts. Hanka Robotics is working on a revolutionary project in which they implant a human brain into a completely synthetic body, creating a robot that has the thoughts, emotions and capabilities of a human. Mira Killian (played by Scarlett Johansson) is the first successful recipient of the transplant, and one year after the experiment she is a major in the company’s anti-terrorist bureau.
Killian, her partner Batou (played by Pilou Asbaek) and the rest of the anti-terrorist bureau find themselves fighting against a cybernetic terrorist attack, in which citizens with robotic parts are being hacked into by an entity identified only as Kuze. The hacked citizens are killing directors of Hanka Robotics, all of which have been involved in an undisclosed project. Meanwhile, Killian suffers through what she initially believes to be glitches in her system causing her to see or hear things that aren’t there, but that later could prove to be a connection to her memories of her past self.
The movie was a far cry from the plot of the source material, including characters and plot twists not present in the original movie. This could be irritating to someone expecting a perfect remake from the source material, but those who don’t mind the changes or haven’t seen the original will most likely be able to take it at face value and enjoy it as a good action movie. It’s also worth noting that the movie is self-contained and makes sense regardless of seeing the original.
The action scenes were fantastic, complete with one-on-one combat and barrages of bullets. The cinematography was fluid throughout, capturing each moment effectively and dramatically. This can be seen from the beginning of the movie, when Killian infiltrates a business conference that turns out to be a terrorist attack. The use of special effects heightens the intensity, leaving viewers sitting at the edge of their seats in anticipation of what happens next.
The set design and graphics for the film were also incredible, vividly portraying a unique image of what the future might look like from a sci-fi perspective. The big city comes alive with colorful holographic images and sleek buildings, and industrial underground bunkers give off an eerie air of what might have occurred there in the past. Adding to the imagery is a soundtrack that perfectly sets the tone for each fight scene and every scene in between.
There were a few problems with the movie, one of them being its pace. Had the pacing been a little slower, there would have been more opportunity for character development and learning more about Killian’s past instead of cramming it into the last part of the movie. It would’ve helped to clear up a few points in the plot that had been confusing due to moving through it too quickly. In an effort to make the action consistent, filmmakers skimmed over important details that could’ve used more time to explain.
Another problem lies with the casting of the movie, which has been a major criticism since before the film was released. While the actors and actresses portrayed the roles well, it felt off-putting to have so many white actors playing roles of what had originally been Japanese characters, particularly since it takes place in Japan. This is particularly true in Killian’s case. The movie provided a reason for why she was white instead of Asian despite her Japanese descent, but in a way the explanation made it worse than simply leaving it unsaid. This could have been avoided by hiring Asian actors and actresses instead of coming up with only slightly excusable back stories.
Overall, Ghost in the Shell serves well as an action movie, but one might want to be prepared to take it as more of a creative re-imagining than a faithful remake of the original. Trying to compare it constantly to the original will lead to disappointment, but taken on it’s own it holds up surprisingly well.
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