Ghost in the Shell
Time Out says
Scarlett Johansson is statuesque and underutilized in this whiffed live-action remake of yesteryear's sci-fi dystopia.
“Humanity is our virtue,” a character says in Ghost in the Shell—and it’s a good thing we hear it, because you won’t get that feeling from the film itself, a slick, overly digitized piece of weightless future schlock. It’s a remake of the 1995 Japanese anime, occasionally discussed as a serious philosophical thumbsucker but mainly an opportunity to ogle a bodacious female android who blows stuff up in a legally actionable rip-off of Blade Runner. Today’s live-action version plays like animation redone as yet more animation: A computer-rendered skyline swarming with fake Godzilla-size holograms—none of this feels remotely real—is patrolled by teams of tech-implanted detectives who act like plastic robots because that’s basically what they are. (No donuts for these cops.)
A stink has been made about the casting of Scarlett Johansson as our ostensibly Asian hero, the Major, a commando prone to swan-diving off buildings while hunting down corporate malfeasance. That’s like opening a can of worms when you’re in a vat of pythons. There’s so much worse here to be concerned about: She’s trapped in a role that requires little of her than to fill the contours of a flesh-colored bodysuit. The soulfulness Johansson explored as an alien come to Earth in Under the Skin is nowhere to be felt; she doesn’t even get to pull off any of her killer roundhouse kicks from Lucy or The Avengers. Her action scenes are too few and too tame. When stone-faced Japanese actor “Beat” Takeshi Kitano is the most human element in your movie, something’s wildly wrong.
Workmanlike director Rupert Sanders (Snow White and the Huntsman) slavishly serves up the imagery from the original: briefcases that convert into machine guns; a pool of white goo that hatches Johansson’s sleek, nude form; weirdly empty city streets (who are all the hologram ads for?); wedge-shaped cars that date the concept back to Miami Vice. The filmmaking team under him, meanwhile, seems to want to travel a different path: The script shoehorns in more identity-grappling this time—half-baked and sub-Westworld though it is—and the squelchy synth score (by Black Swan’s Clint Mansell) supplies a playfulness that’s unearned by the visuals. Find a handy film geek to tell you all about how Ghost in the Shell was a massive influence on The Matrix. Better yet, just rewatch The Matrix.
Follow Joshua Rothkopf on Twitter: @joshrothkopf
Cast and crew