Mamoru Oshii’s anime film Ghost in the Shell (1995) was a heavy inspiration for The Matrix (1999). The animated film is regarded as an intelligent and still relevant film, for the line of humans interacting and combining with machines. Now, we have an effects heavy expensive visual effects action film that retains a somewhat dumbed down plot from that film, as well as cherry picking set pieces from the sequel, and many of the television adaptations that came out later. In fact, this live action recreates some of the anime’s scenes nearly shot for shot. This can be refreshing to newcomers, and familiar to longtime fans. I am a longtime fan, so I have mixed feelings about the film.
In the near future, Major (Scarlett Johansson) is the first of her kind: A human saved from a accident, who is cyber-enhanced to be a perfect soldier devoted to stopping the world’s most dangerous criminals. When cyber terrorism reaches a level that includes the ability to hack into people’s minds and control them, Major is the one who is capable of stopping it. As she prepares to face a new enemy, Major discovers that she has been lied to: her life was not saved, it was stolen. She begins to research her past, find out who did this to her and stop them before they do it to others. It is based on the internationally acclaimed Japanese Manga, “The Ghost in the Shell.”
While some of the plot borrows a bit from the Jason Bourne series, and of course Robocop (1987), this is about as good as one could hope for with a western adaptation of a Japanese intellectual property. The score is amazing. The production design and the set pieces are very well done. However, I found myself hoping for some really amazing reveal. Unfortunately, being so familiar with the original material became a handicap while watching the film. I find it interesting how some reviewers have not even seen the original film, and they casually dismiss the film. To casual viewers, Ghost in the Shell (2017) will likely come across as visually impressive work of forgettable cyberpunk. For longtime fans, it could range anywhere from confusing to severely compromised.
The themes of transhumanism, man and machine, and the dangers of technology were simplified to a more digestible plot for less patient viewers. Still, there were a lot of walk outs, during a Friday night screening. (This is why we can’t have nice things!)
In spite of my disappointment, I still hope the film does well. I want more cyberpunk films to come into the public view. I suggest watching it and looking at the original films, but with some time to separate the experiences.
I hope people will give it a chance. I still have my blu-rays on my shelf, and they are still great films. This one will perhaps open up some new fans to a world I have liked for over twenty years.
If you are curious about the comparisons between the two, there are a couple of videos that are showing just that.