"Ghost in the Shell" Review
Last year, Scarlett Johansson became the highest-grossing North American box office actress of all-time, thanks, in large part, to her supporting role as Black Widow in the Marvel superhero movies. But she’s starred in plenty of films as well, including 2014’s so-so “Lucy”. Now, ScarJo is back to headline the first live-action English language adaptation of the wildly popular Japanese comic series - “Ghost in the Shell”.
Director Rupert Sanders (“Snow White & the Huntsman”) wastes no time getting us up to speed with this futuristic saga by shoving plot and backstory details in our face via on-screen text - and we quickly learn how Johansson’s Mira became “Major” - the top soldier in the government’s crime-fighting program.
A year earlier, Hanka Robotics implanted Mira’s human brain into a robotic body. She’s now fighting crime in a highly cyber-advanced Asian city filled with the typical sci-fi movie flash - and plenty of bad guys.
The visually ambitious and overwhelming first half is dominated by robots, androids and human hybrids shooting and stabbing other robots, androids and human hybrids - though we’re not quite sure why - or who’s on who’s side. These over-stylized action sequences are extremely mindless and feature Johansson in predictably skin-tight outfits. But even with the action, the overall pacing of “Shell” is slow as a turtle - and just as exciting.
However, following a “major” twist about halfway through, “Ghost” comes out of its predictable fantasy/thriller…shell…and finds both its legs and its humanity.
New characters arrive to give the narrative meaning, and Johansson is allowed to show-off more than just her curves. For once, calling a performance “robotic” is a compliment. In fact, one of the film’s rare quiet moments, involving Johansson and a minor, but key, character, is the standout movie scene of the year to date.
The key with seeing “Ghost in the Shell” is sticking with it through the dull, “seen-it-all-before” first 45 minutes. Do that, and you will be rewarded with an interesting take on the dangers of mixing artificial and human intelligence…along with some good ol’ fashioned revenge.