A robot with a human mind is employed as a soldier and assassin, but the more her humanity rises, the more questions she has about her identity. A new enemy may have the answers she seeks, but can she trust him? Or is it the people she’s working for who are really leading her astray?
In the future, science has enabled humans to enhance their bodies. This meshing of technology and nature comes with consequences. It seems there are those who consider the human body to be a weaker vessel, and instead look to implant human brains into a robotic form.
The result, and first of her kind, is the Major (Scarlett Johansson), who is working for a government agency as a cyborg soldier in an anti-terrorism group. Her superhuman strength in a human looking shell makes her almost undetectable, and she is used to prevent a plot to murder key visiting diplomats.
As she traces the evil mastermind behind this plot, she discovers something that may reveal a key element to her own past. Her story of creation is questioned, and she must figure out who she can trust, if anyone at all.
Ghost in the Shell is a futuristic live action film adaptation of a now classic manga by Masamune Shirow. Much like the work of Philip K Dick, it explores the evolution of technology as a means of blurring the lines between humanity and artificial intelligence. First appearing at the end of the late 80’s, the original manga’s existential musings on identity, technology and humanity resonated with many readers at a time when technology was starting to really take hold in society. It’s why this movie has been so anticipated.
It feels impossible to talk about this film without addressing the issues it raises around whitewashing. As a film based on a much-beloved manga series, the casting of Scarlett Johansson as the lead is problematic. It’s also concerning that there seems to be an abundance of evil Japanese characters in the film, but the good characters are predominantly western. It’s a subtle yet dangerous reinforcement of racial stereotypes.
In a film that gives a female lead such a wonderful sense of power and ability, it’s unfortunate that we cannot freely celebrate the feminist appeal of this piece without the conflicting issues it presents.
Young girls everywhere know the importance of seeing female superheroes, which is where this film succeeds. But, young Japanese girls also deserve to see their heroes brought to life in a way that validates their identity, rather than having a character who is so intrinsically Japanese, made white. These characters shape our views of what strength, power and beauty look like.
As a film, it’s spectacular and entertaining and befits the expectations of the genre. With echoes of Blade Runner and Total Recall, it’s a futuristic science fiction fantasy that provides a lot of action. While it succeeds visually, the scripting could have been better, but fans of the genre will no doubt enjoy all it offers.
Ghost in the Shell is a visually impressive film that some fans will love, while others will rue the missed opportunity to faithfully bring to life a quintessentially Japanese cult favourite.
Director: Rupert Sanders
Stars: Scarlett Johansson, “Beat” Takeshi Kitano, Michael Carmen Pitt, Pilou Asbaek, Chin Han and Juliette Binoche
Runtime: 1hour 47 mins
Release Date: March 30
Reviewer Rating: 2.5/5