17 Apr 2017

Ghost in the Shell - Review

It's been a few weeks of horror regarding the live action version of the beloved cyberpunk anime and manga Ghost in the Shell, by Masamune Shiro.

By horror I'm talking about vitriol surrounding the release with the accusation of white washing, and small changes to the plot. The movie itself is fantastic.

Go watch the film. Treat it like you would any live action take on a comic book. Just let it be what it is on it's own merits. Then bitch about it.

If you want to know more about my take on the film join me after the break.

Right off the bat the new film does a few things right. Picture and sound are perfect, Clint Mansell and Lorne Balfe do a great job. They got new versions of the music form the original and much loved anime. Then you add the remixes and new songs of 80's pop-synth bands. Pulling on folks like DJ Shadow to make music. Ki:Theory's take on Depeche Mode's Enjoy the Silence is fucking haunting. Getting Gary Numan to come back into the spotlight for his brilliant slow synth song Bed of Thorns was a great choice in slew of well made choices.

The sounds of a cyberpunk world are perfect to the visual style under Rupert Sanders. We have not seen such a brilliant visual interpretation of the cyberpunk ascetic since Blade Runner in 1982. Everything has that mix of clean modern lines of state of the art versus the dirty gritty cheap reality of easy access technology caught between an fusion of Asian-American styles with a European twist. It's such a melting pot of styles that is major hallmark of this science fiction sub-genre. I felt the touch of William Gibson considered the godfather of cyberpunk in every visual queue.

Hacking another trope of cyberpunk was well done visually without making it too much of a magic show. The action sequences we well crafted and not caught in a confusion of shaky cam or too fast to follow. It slows down to showcase the focus and it uses the best and most iconic scenes from the anime. When Major is fighting the spider tank I remember turning to Lady Bear and saying I want arms to be ripped off... if you've seen the anime you'll know what I'm talking about. That one moment is her character pushing the limits of the artificial body by her organic and human will.

Acting wise Scarlett Johansson is cold, robotic, and confused. She is perfect for the role and I think it's my favorite showing of the Major outside of Arise. She was a brilliant casting choice - fuck those who complain about white washing. Major in all of her interpretations has always had a non-asian look about her physically, even to the point where it's comment on. The creator has said in interviews for the last decade that Major has an american look like a hafu (term for Japanese with European ancestry). Also one of the classic themes of cyberpunk is exploring who and what you are in a new world moving faster than mankind can socially adapt to. There is always a taste of the lesson 'don't judge a book by it's cover' and the whitewashing complaint is doing just that instead of giving the artists time to explain and explore that concept of identity (a major theme in the movie).

Some of the members of Section 9 by number:
1 - Borma, 2 - Saito, 3 - Batou, 4 - Major, 5 - Aramaki, 6 - Ishikawa
The cast is full on international and diverse cast led by Japanese superstar Beat Takeshi the chef Aramaki, with Danish actor Pilou Asbaek as Batou. They are supported by Chinese actor Ng Chin Han as Togusa, and Australian actor Lasarus Ratuere as Ishikawa. It goes on with Yutaka Izumihara from Japan as the sniper Saito, demolition expert Borma was played by Zimbabwean actor Tawanda Manyimo, and they made a new character of Ladriya by Kudish/Polish actor Danusia Samal. The only other American actor is the unrecognizable Michael Pitt as the antagonist Kuze. Add two of the most celebrated international actresses of all time, hailing from Japan is Kaori Momoi, and from France the always brilliant Juliette Binoche.

Section 9 from Arise (L) and Stand Alone Complex (R)
In a white male led industry seeing a movie with a divers international cast in an action movie led by a female actor. You also have Johansson supported by other female actors who do not play the role of a damsel in distress or a helpless woman is just fucking refreshing.

There is no action sex montage between the two leads - the Major and Batou are close knit friends who share an immense trust and bond with one another. The whole "I give my consent" that repeats in the film is a parallel to a woman making choices about her body and the topic of rape and slavery.

There is so much here that got lost with all the media drama that it's a shame. The movie is not perfect, the replacement of of the theme of what does it mean to be human versus the what does it mean to me is not a bad change nor is it a positive change. Like any interpretation from a comic, the changes are simply meh and it's really picky to get pissy about it.

I've spoken with mates about this and my major negative comment is not getting enough time with the rest of Section 9 team. I loved Ghost in the Shell: Arise for exploring the characters well in a short amount of time. We get snap shots of the team and it leaves me wanting more time with the team that surround Major and Batou.

My gripe is small and tiny and many we get some time with Section 9 with a extended version of the film. All in all a great film that is more than being above the standard. The visual and sounds plus the acting of the cast make it something for upcoming cyberpunk movies to take note of.

Ghost in the Shell is GOLD.

- Cheers