Ghost in the Shell

Ghost in the Shell ★★★½

Scarlett Johansson can't give an emotional performance to save her life, but that seems to work towards the benefit of Ghost in the Shell, a new adaptation of the well-known manga. There was a massive amount of public backlash against this remake, which mainly centered around a flimsy campaign against "whitewashing" the main character- a complaint that makes little sense, considering the original Major had barely (if any at all) distinguishable characteristics that would make her origin or race obvious. It's even better, however, that director Rupert Sanders and co. clearly took some of those preconceived criticisms to heart and used them to the story's advantage.

This new adaptation of Ghost in the Shell takes a deeper dive into Major's backstory than the original anime film did, turning the initial mystery into a full blown conspiracy that tries to center around unraveling its protagonist's clouded past. Major has a much more intriguing past that takes more time to flesh out- without the condensed runtime, there's a more intricate character development at play. That doesn't mean that there's a whole lot in here that would make it anywhere near the classic status that the original movie holds, however.

The majority of the acting (specifically from Johansson, but almost everyone is at fault) feels almost mechanical and lifeless. It's understandable that, being mostly a robot with a human consciousness, Major would have to come across as mostly robotic, but even the other human characters lacked an emotion that would make them distinctly human. Nearly every line sputtered by these characters feels dull and lifeless as ever, lacking any semblance of feeling or any really interesting characteristics to give them some originality.

What Ghost in the Shell lacks in acting, though, it more than makes up for in its technical mastery. The score is some of the best music I've heard in any film of the past few years. Clint Mansell is a godsend for soundtracks, and the synth-laden music brings back fond memories of Vangelis's iconic score in Blade Runner. The first thing that came to mind when hearing the soundtrack was Deus Ex: Human Revolution. Whenever that inevitable adaptation comes along, he and Lorne Balfe should be the first people to be approached to create that soundtrack- together, they would create the closest thing possible to mimicking that perfect tone of the music from Human Revolution.

Although it obviously doesn't (and won't) reach the classic status that Mamoru Oshii's anime masterwork attained, Rupert Sanders' Americanized adaptation of Ghost in the Shell is still a surprisingly enjoyable film that has a lot more going for it than expected. Scarlett Johansson, despite all her good looks, really should either polish her acting abilities or choose roles that fit her dry persona better than what she's been doing lately, though she isn't really the weakest link in this chain. The action sequences are still nonetheless stunning, replete with moments that mirror and homage the original manga- and even some fleeting references that wink back at the Wachowskis' Matrix movies (which borrowed heavily from the original film). Ghost in the Shell tries its hardest to be its own film, and if you're able to detach from the hard nostalgia factors that the original film will bring along, you may find a pleasant surprise waiting for you herein.

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