Marred by whitewashing controversy ever since Scarlett Johansson was cast in the lead role, Rupert Sanders’ adaptation of the Japanese manga, Ghost in the Shell, has been released and has a lot to live up to with the 1995 anime version being one of the most influential anime of all time.
In the near future, Major (Scarlett Johansson) is the first of her kind: a human who is cyber-enhanced, designed as the perfect soldier to stop the world’s most dangerous criminals. When a new terrorist threat reaches a dangerous level, Major is the most qualified to put a stop to it however, the more she investigates, the more she uncovers about her past.
Right off the bat, I’ve got to say that Ghost in the Shell is a truly visually stunning example of sci-fi, Rupert Sanders’ film brought to life with some mightily impressive special effects and Jess Hall’s cinematography, some of the sweeping shots of the city really wowing me. The score from Clint Mansell and Lorne Balfe suits the visual style of the film to a tee and aids this adaptation in bringing the manga to life.
As impressed with the visuals as I was, some of the action sequences such as the water fight or the spider tank finale, in comparison to the 1995 anime, don’t have the same energy levels to them, which is probably because you could never capture the same vividness that exists in the animation of an anime. It does make me wonder how they’d even go about making a live-action adaptation of something like Akira.
The story has been fleshed out some more and changes have been made for this adaptation, which led to film becoming a little weighed down for me. It’s an interesting story but there are some serious pacing issues at times, making the film feel a lot longer than it actually is.
Coming to the performances, Ghost in the Shell features a quietly impressive lead in Scarlett Johansson, whose emotional range perfectly reflects the progression of both the story and her character’s journey. Her performance will most likely be overshadowed by the whitewashing controversy, which I’m sure will lead to some boycotting the film overall but she does give a good performance. Out of all the supporting cast, I’d have to say I enjoyed Pilou Asbæk’s performance as Batou the most because, aside from Major, he’s the coolest character in this film.
I tend to avoid the politics of a film upon release and when looking back on it after. With that in mind, Ghost in the Shell is a perfectly fine adaptation that suffers a little with additional narrative yet serves as a real treat for the eyes and ears.