Released on March 31, 2017, “Ghost in the Shell,” directed by Rupert Sanders, is a live-action adaptation of a manga and anime franchise of the same name. It’s a flashy sci-fi action drama that has plenty of unique, impressive visuals but a fairly predictable and shallow plot. A great lead performance by Scarlett Johansson with exciting action scenes set in a futuristic dystopia makes it fun to watch, but not movie-of-the-year material.
In a highly technologically advanced future, cybernetic enhancements have become commonplace. People get alterations to aid senses like vision and hearing, or increase physical performance. Hanka Robotics, a leading developer of cybernetic augmentation, has created a secret project: they’ve placed a human brain inside a fully synthetic body in an effort to create a being with the best features of both man and machine.
The brain came from a woman named Mira Killian, the lone survivor of a cyberterrorist attack whose body was damaged beyond repair. With her new cybernetic body, Killian is trained to become a counter-terrorism weapon and after a year earns the rank of Major in the defense organization Section Nine.
Soon, Hanka Robotics higher-ups start getting killed by a mysterious antagonist named Kuze. As Major Killian and her team work on tracking down the killer, a mystery unfolds and it appears that Major hasn’t been told the whole truth about her creation. Perhaps Hanka Robotics isn’t everything that it seems…
“Ghost in the Shell” has a brilliant cast and character/costume design. They really did a good job of making the live-action characters look as though they came from a Japanese cartoon. Which brings me to a controversy surrounding the film, which some think have caused its flop in the box office.
Many people believe that Hollywood is once again guilty of “whitewashing” with this film. Whitewashing is the act of casting white people in roles that were originally for people of color. In this instance the role in question is Scarlett Johansson as Major. Since “Ghost in the Shell” is originally a Japanese franchise, many think that the role should have been played by an Asian actress.
Mamaru Oshii, the creator of the 1995 anime adaptation which helped begin anime’s ascendance as an international craze, defended the casting of Johansson in the film. He explained, “What issue could there possibly be with casting her? The name and her current body are not her original name and body, so there is no basis for saying that an Asian actress must portray her. I can only sense a political motive from the people opposing it, and I believe artistic expression must be free from politics.”
To be honest, I’ve only personally seen clips of the anime movie and never read the manga series. As essentially a “newbie” to this franchise, I really enjoyed watching the film. The series fanbase though, has had different reactions to the live-action adaptation. Touissant Egan, a writer for complex.com, described the film as a, “hurried and haphazard reenactment of a decade’s worth of scenes, while contributing little next to nothing new itself… poor imitation at best and cynically calculated pandering at it’s worst.”
While the film, for some, may not have captured the essence of the original series, I believe that it’s done an important job in bringing the story to an entirely new audience. Accomplishing that goal often requires changes.
While the plot of this film is somewhat predictable, what’s important is the main theme. What will happen to us as technology advances to a point in our daily lives that it blurs the line between human and machine? The human experience inevitably changes, as it always has. The universe that Masamune Shirow created back in 1989 with his genre-shaking manga series asks those questions and attempts to imagine a possible future for human existence.
If you don’t much care about the classic Japanese franchise and want to see a really impressive looking film with awesome visuals and action scenes, check out “Ghost in the Shell” in theaters now.
Ben Godfrey is a staff writer for The Dakota Student. He can be reached at [email protected]