Ghost in the Shell is a manga / graphic novel series by Masamune Shirow and made into a 2017 movie directed by Rupert Sanders. I never read the graphic novels, so I leave it to others to decide if it’s a fair retelling of the original series. But I will say this, I got the distinct feeling that scenes/characters/plot points were being crammed into the movie in order to get as much of the story into the movie as possible. This might have been a mistake because there were so many scenes in the movie where I felt like I was missing the point.
On a positive note, I can say that the movie invests a lot of time and effort in the world building and this future feels gritty and real and just a little dark. Blade Runner springs to mind as the obvious comparison point. The plot follows the story of a character names Major, who is a fully mechanized android fighting machine. She is so realistic that by all appearances Major is a human woman. But every bit of her is artificial except for one important part, her brain.
Supposedly, Major is a woman who was in a major accident and would have died except for being saved by a major defense contractor running this weapons development program. Becuas eMajor is nothing if not a first class killing machine. It’s a thing of beauty to see her take down an entire room of machine-gun toting bad guys like a ballerina who’s not even breaking a sweat.
But weird glitches start appearing in her perception of reality and soon Major is questioning her humanity or what she is or even if she can ever know what she is.
Or so I assume. Despite the world building, despite the careful unfolding of who/what Major is. I never really got that sense of humanity. Scarlett Johanssen never convinces me she’s a human being questiioning/searching for her humanity. There’s no moment like Batty’s “tears in the rain monologue.” You see Major investigating her past, trying to fit the pieces together, but she’s wooden, mechanical.
Is that how the author intended? Did the director fail to realize the story? Is it a problem with Johanssen’s performance. I couldn’t say. But whatever the reason, it’s not satisfying as Blade Runner.
But I give the movie props as a totally immersive world building experience and the action is top notch. So I give it a thumbs up even though I can’t say it’s a brilliant movie.