Ghost in the Shell

I missed the press screening of Ghost in the Shell, and figured I wouldn’t be seeing it. But when the San Diego International Film Festival’s “Insider Series” was showing a movie I had already seen, I instead jumped into the theatre to finally see this.

It has made about $130 million, but was considered a disappointment in the U.S. (but like Spinal Tap, it is big in Japan). The fans of the original anime version from the mid-90s might be disappointed — or extremely happy — by this version. I never saw the original, but have heard the arguments on both sides.

Scarlett Johansson plays “Major.” Her brain has been taken and put in a robocop style shell. Speaking of Robocop, this will remind you of that, as well as the movies Source Code, Bourne Identity, Ex Machina, Strange Days, A.I., Terminator, Total Recall, Minority Report, and mostly Blade Runner, with better graphics and set designs. All of those movies (aside from A.I.) were better. Yet it doesn’t mean you’ll be bored watching this eye-popping spectacle.

Perhaps doing a movie from the mid-90s doesn’t work because since that time, we’ve already seen all these concepts. Yes, the brain of the person is going to wonder about their former life. We’ll see bad guys that are similar to one-dimensional villains we’ve seen in so many other films.

Director Rupert Sanders (Snow White and the Huntsman) and the three screenwriters must’ve felt that with such interesting set designs, they could merely give us a shell of a movie.

The supporting cast is a lot of fun. “Beat” Takeshi Kitano (Sonatine, Battle Royale) is Armaki. Pilou Asbaek is Batou, who is a perfect sidekick for Major, especially after losing his eyes.

The classy Juliette Binoche is good as the sympathetic Dr. Ouelet; and there’s Michael Pitt as Hiokeo.

Batou and Major are trying to track down a terrorist hacker, who is trying to disrupt Hanka Corp and create havoc.

Major might also start remembering who she really is (don’t they always?). Dr. Ouelet might also help this procedure along (don’t they always?).

Since I don’t think Johansson is the best actress, playing a robotic character works well for her. Yet she did Lucy, and the computer voice in Her, so I’m not sure why she felt the need to do this.

There was controversy that an Asian actress wasn’t used (as the character was in the original), but for the story, it actually makes more sense that they’d create this robocop type character that didn’t look like the girl kidnapped (who is Asian). I was more perplexed as to why she needed a skin tight outfit. Don’t get me wrong, I ain’t complaining. Fanboys won’t be complaining either. Just not sure I get the point, or the point of her wearing clothes in other scenes. Uh…is she “naked” sometimes and not other times? And if we’re going to try to make Johansson look sexy, uh…couldn’t they have spent a few minutes making those robo-geisha’s a bit sexier? They were creepy (which, truth be told, worked better for the movie).

So even though this movie was nothing original, the visuals are so dazzling, you certainly won’t feel you wasted your two hours.

2 ½ stars out of 5.