N Gatten’s review published on Letterboxd:
Deus Ex: Human Revelations
Well, before I begin I definitely think this film needs to win an award for best visual effects, set design and make up and costumes. Hell, just the fact they were confident to match up with the hairstyles with the original anime is fascinating.
I'd also like to say that I'm really happy to see more Asian funded films hit American cinemas. I think a diversity of funding allows for a diversity of ideas. I'm still intrigued to see how the American media reacts to this new reality of film-making, hopefully they approach these films with an open mind.
What this film is about:
Identity vs. Dogma
Lies within the physical and virtual realm
The consequences of eugenics
Distrust of technology
This is the first film I've seen in a long while that takes such a firm stance against eugenics. Just the very idea of taking "broken" people that for their own reasons don't align with society, wiping their memories, and placing them in a (white) robotic weaponized body. And have them hunt their own friends.
It's a very relevant and scary concept. And yes, very much in the realm of eugenics, though with a robotic edge instead of a genetic one. And for the first 45 minutes of the film it is shown as a positive thing, enough that certain audience members may nod their heads in agreement. But of course the film is wiser than that, and turns into a very cautionary tale about the loss of one's identity and heritage. The Major's previous body was Asian, and was a political activist against robotics. And the person she is now hunting used to be her lover. To that end, she can trust her friends within Section 9, but she can no longer trust the institutions surrounding her.
Symbolically the film relies heavily on Asian symbols of reincarnation rather than Western Christian symbols, a choice I did not expect but appreciated. In terms of exploring robotics and what it means to be human it could have done better. Ultimately it falls flat compared to recent stories like Blade Runner 2049 and Deus Ex: Human Revolution.
Unfortunately it's all these elements that make the ending so unsatisfying. At this point the Major has realized that her new life and her shell is all a lie. So the only way for her to be true to herself, and the last honest choice for her, is to join The Puppetmaster's spirit within that virtual heaven he created. But she chooses not to, and apparently for whatever reason keeps her body as well. The obvious reason for this is to set up for a sequel. A sequel that, even if they mine into Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence for material, would never work within the context that its now set.
It's also at this point where I get into my main problem with the film: The missing scenes. Other people have done comparisons with the trailer, but there are other ways to tell as well. The fact that it shows the title twice, dialogue that doesn't match up, minimal time given to important side characters, the first act moves too fast, and the fact that for a film that talks a lot about memory it just... talks. While assuming that we've already seen these fake memories that the Major "experienced". Adding that this film follows a "show don't tell" for everything else, it feels suspicious. The director has also refused to show deleted scenes on the DVD. The film is also PG-13 despite not being aimed nor marketed toward a PG-13 crowd.