Ghost in the Shell: Ghost in the Philip K. Dick
At some point us as a culture are going to have to ask Hollywood why they keep doing these anime adaptations. No one asks for them, they don't do well in the box office and 9 times out of 10, they're gonna rub people the wrong way. By this token, it seemed like Ghost in the Shell would be the last IP that the west would think about touching (except for maybe Grave of the Fireflies). The 1995 classic, besides being one of the most impressive feats of animation of the time and arguably all time, is also a hefty narrative, that asks questions on identity, metaphysics, eastern spirituality, philosophy, cybernetics, consciousness, and the future and history of japan, all in 82 minutes. So it's disappointing, yet not surprising, that a film that nearly a half hour longer manages to contain none of this.
This remake isn't even a half step. It is a quarter step at best. This film is essentially only an adaptation by name. The intricate plot of the original is thrown out, and replaced with a dumbed down origin, revenge, conspiracy story. Essentially the Major, now renamed Mira Killian (oh we'll get to that) works for Section 9, an anti-terrorist unit. She begins having "hallucinations" about who she was before she became mostly cybernetic. She soon uncovers a conspiracy that you'll see coming the moment they start to hint towards it, even if you haven't seen the original. What was a discourse on identity, consciousness, and metaphysics, became more reminiscent of Total Recall and Robocop (the shit remakes) and Philip K Dick stories, than GITS. The emphasis on the "ghost" and the nature of consciousness and identity is dumbed down to "I don't remember who I am, and I wanna find out". The producers obviously saw the original anime as an aesthetic rather than an actual I.P. with it's own feel and identity to work with. Outside of a few key sequences i.e. the Geishas, the fight in the water, and the spider tanks, the bulk of the story feels like it's own separate thing. To that point I wonder why the studio didn't just make a Blade Runner inspired "original" film starring Scarlett Johansson? It would have prevented a lot of headaches
To give credit where credit is due, the film LOOKS very very good. The special effects are on point, and the general art direction is generally good, even if the whole "Pan-Asia inspired industrial city" will rub some people the wrong way. Unfortunately the film doesn't really DO anything with the effects. All the fights are boring, predictable, and standardly shot. ScarJo is OK as the Major. She's good at playing detached and robotic, but she's not given much to work with to make it interesting.
Spoiler Warning. Don't read if you don't want the ending and asinine twist spoiled
So as it turns out Major Mira Killian is actually Motoko Kusanagi. Mokoto had her "ghost", soul, brain, what ever side of the metaphysics you fall on, taken out of her body and put in the body of the "perfect" soldier. The film ends with Mira, now trying to embrace her past as Motoko, hugging her Japanese mother.....yeah, that's as tone deaf and awkward as it sounds. I mean talk about sub-text just becoming text. A Japanese person who is put in white skin without their consent. And the thing is, this isn't written as some major commentary, or satire either. They legit thought that this would be a good twist, and not be really really really awkward and uncomfortable in execution. Why not just have her be japanese? Now tbf, all of the GITS properties, which includes the manga, original movie, the sort of, but not really sequel Innocence (2001), Stand Alone Complex (2005) and Ghost in the Shell: The New Movie (2015) all are technically stand alone, self contained stories and therefore somewhat switch up the characterization and origins of The Major in each, but this seems like the logically worst thing that they could've done. It would've been better if they just had The Major be white, but no, they wanted their cake and to eat it too. So the ending is just an additional slap to the face to what was already a subpar film.
I don't know who this movie was really for. Fans of the original definitely won't enjoy it, and it's not good enough on it's own right to garner any new ones. I'd recommend anyone thinking about seeing this to just check out the original films and the other Japanese works that came from it. Happily cannot recommend. 2/5