Well, let’s have a talk about the absolute shit show that is Ghost in the Shell. What a let-down, man. When I first saw the trailer I was really excited thinking this was going to be a visually gorgeous, creative sci-fi action thriller. But no. And I can only speak about this movie specifically since I don’t know much about the 1995 film or any other origins of Ghost in the Shell.
Robots, or rather cybernetic entities, cyborgs, if you will – I hate them. I hate the idea of them, despise the concept of ‘enhancing’ our bodies with foreign objects that only serve to make us more efficient. Because life is all about them numbers, ain’t it. And let’s take it a step further and make everyone think it’ll help humanity if we make ourselves invincible, almost indestructible and in further consequence change our minds and bodies so far that we become emotionless, unfeeling machines that can easily be replaced and discarded as functioning becomes more important than living.
The concept of this story is literally my worst nightmare.
But let’s put that mental bombshell aside for now and focus on the movie itself.
It was not quite 2 hours long but, boi, it might as well have been 7. The entire audience in our theater was bored out of their minds. The people next to me talked, not whispered but talked, and I wasn’t even bothered. I saw phones flashing and people sliding farther and farther down in their chairs likely about to fall asleep half-way through.
The first 45 minutes of the movie felt like I was thrown in the last two episodes of an entire season of a mediocre tv show. I get the whole ‘in medias res’ approach to starting a story. But that’s not really what happened here. The audience wasn’t really thrown into it. The movie starts with the protagonist, Motoko aka Major, being created and it is completely unclear how much time passes between connecting her brain to a robotic body and the start of the first mission. Which is also why it hardly makes sense that she would know how to operate as a member of the…military? Unless Hanka, the organization they all work for, can implement knowledge of close combat training and weaponry into cyborg’s brains…but then why wouldn’t they just erase free will or at least defiance out of the brain and control the soldiers completely? Or how about the fact that she is so close to her partner Batou. When did they develop this trusting and co-reliable relationship? Or is that just part of the memories Hanka implanted in Major’s brain? But then how did they control the relationship on Batou’s side? None of this is explained in the film. The entire first half is a chaotic mess. The second half is not much better. Yes, some aspects of the story are explained but other than that it is really just another mediocre, garden-variety sci-fi film. We have some minor fist fights, a few lackluster dialogues and….a spider-shaped tank for a boss fight???
Speaking of boss fight: what a half-hearted attempt at villany. It is never a good sign when the main villain (Cutter in this case), who has already been introduced at the beginning of the film, appears again and the audience has to ask “So, who’s that?” Hardly ever have I seen an antagonist that is so non-descript, his name might as well have been Average Joe. Plus, what was his motivation? ‘They didn’t do as I say so they must be destroyed’? Come on.
But then again, was he even the main villain? To be honest, he seemed more like a late addition to the story so that the previous antagonist could be sympathized with. In that regard, Cutter might simply have the function of a ‘hate-sponge’, someone to direct our dislike at so we don’t feel too ambiguous about Kuze, the failed experiment. But how about we don’t open the Pandora’s box of bullshit that is Kuze.
The action sequences that were scattered throughout were okay at best. Out of all the extremely short outbursts of violence the very first was probably the most interesting. Especially considering the visual aspect. The moment when Major bursts through the glass window to kill the Geisha robots is the only instance in all my life that I would ever argue in favor of 3D.
Other action sequences again left me with more questions. Like, what is the purpose of semi-invisibility? Major was fully invisible, but Kuze’s mind-controlled henchman was flickering all the way through his attempted escape. Could he not afford complete invisibility? Is that only a feature of rich cyborg’s bodies? And why would he even be a cyborg? He was a garbage truck driver, not a failed experiment so did he just enhance his body so many times that in the end he was made up of robotic parts entirely? On a garbage truck driver’s salary that has to pay for his daughter’s violin lessons?
The other scenes, the dialogues and quiet moments don’t save this movie either. The characters are barely introduced let alone explained. What is their relationship to each other? What is their position in Hanka? What does the heirarchy in Hanka look like anyway? Are the doctors engineers? And do they work freelance? Because if they were actual employees, then it should have been more difficult for Kuze to kill them.
Sadly, the story and writing were not the only faults in this movie. The acting, too, left a lot to be desired from absolutely every single cast member, major and minor roles. The only somewhat decent performance was delivered by Pilou Asbæk as Batou who was also the only somewhat likable character. Now, did Johansson not venture outside of one singular facial expression because she tried to portray a robot? We’ll never know. And apparently being void of emotion also means being void of articulation…or maybe mumbling will be our future way of communication.
To be fair, though, there were also positive aspects to Ghost in the Shell. They were far and few between but still notable. As I already mentioned, the 3D effect in the beginning was gerat. Visually I was largely unimpressed, however, any CGI to do with Major’s body looked very well done. In particular her creation in the beginning and the way her arm ripped apart during the final fight. Johansson is certainly one of Hollywood’s most beautiful women, which, paired with her very well done costume and make up/hair, at least made her character interesting to look at. Moreover, the idea behind the original story seems promising (if terrifying) so in theory there is potential.
In short, by the end I was left with a lot more questions than I care to explore, as you can probably tell. Since I haven’t seen the 1995 animated film, that is something I will definitely check out. As for the 2017 live-action version of Ghost in the Shell, it’s a solid 3/10 from me.
The last time I was so unsatisfyingly confused at the end of a movie was when I saw Tomorrowland.
(And did I mention: I hate robots.)