One of the glaring omissions in my film knowledge is Mamoru Oshii’s 1995 cult-anime, Ghost in the Shell; a film based on the manga by Masamune Shirow, which I know many hold a deep fondness for. But even with no expectations whatsoever for Rupert Sanders’ controversial American adaptation/remake, I was still left hugely disappointed by this sci-fi which, as visually extraordinary as it is, is still soul-destroyingly dull.
Dealing with a convention of the genre that we’ve all seen before, the biggest issue is that the story, which deals with the relationship between technology and humanity (the physical and the soul) doesn’t do anything that’s particularly new or different. Basically, if you’ve ever seen Blade Runner, you’ve seen this. And even if you’ve seen a film before, any film, chances are you’ll know exactly how the story is going to play out within the opening ten-minutes. As a result, the various twists and turns of the plot fail to have the impact that Sanders is often trying to create; often proving more head-shakingly laughable than surprising.
There are a number of redeeming qualities, all of which lie within the actual production of the film itself. Whitewashing aside, Scarlett Johansson gives a masterful performance as the cyber-enhanced (cyborg), Major. It’s a complex role that’s all about the way in which Johansson carries herself with an almost-robotic physicallity, while trying to reflect some kind of emotion and humanity at particular stages in the film – a tough balancing act that she manages to pull off.
Most memorable of all, however, is the world in which Sanders has built for the screen with the help of Jess Williams’ cinematography and first class visual effects. Within the film’s opening moments, it proves to be more visually arresting than most I’ve seen this year, and when complimented with the fantastic synth score from Lorne Balfe and Clint Mansell, the shell itself is something quite special. A shame then that the content is so painfully boring that it genuinely nearly put me to sleep.
Whilst I’m unable to compare this to the original source material, what I’ve seen from this version of Ghost in the Shell hasn’t exactly made me want to rush out and do so. The physical elements of the piece, from the performances to the neon visuals, are all fine, but it is sorely lacking when it comes to the exploration of the soul.
Image credit to http://www.impawards.com