By Jason Yon
Elm Staff Writer
“Ghost in the Shell”, starring Scarlett Johansson as the Major, is a live action re-make of the 1995 anime by Shirow Masamune, based on his original manga. When the anime was released, it was heralded as a masterpiece and became the inspiration for popular science fiction. The original “Ghost in the Shell” was a major influence on “The Matrix” (1999), especially the iconic green numbers that scroll past the screen and a lesser known video game franchise: “Deus Ex,” which is based on cyborgs and technological improvements to the human body. While it isn’t exactly mainstream in the United States, “Ghost in the Shell” has had a considerable impact on science fiction and it is good to see a live action version finally be released.
The 2017 “Ghost in the Shell” follows the same characters as the original with similar themes and plot devices, yet changes several sections enough to where the story is completely different. This might have been done intentionally to modernize the story and avoid a total rehash of the original plot. In this version, the Major is the first of her kind, a cybernetic body with an implanted brain; a soul without a body. She operates within Section 9, a militaristic police force of the future with optical camouflage and cybernetically enhanced team members. The original focused mainly on Major’s physical conflict with the villain while this version spends a great deal more time on her as a character. Throughout the film, she experiences flashbacks and glitches in her system that lead her toward her past and true identity. Most of “Ghost in the Shell” is Major’s journey to discovering who she really is.
Very similar to what seems like a majority of movies this year, “Ghost in the Shell” is visually amazing. The main difference is that the film features a lot of practical effects, props, and costumes designed by WETA, the company responsible for the props and design of the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy and Neil Blomkamp’s science fictions movies “District 9” and “Elysium.” The props, prosthetics, costumes, and overall design of the world in “Ghost in the Shell” is great. If there is any company that could be described as a perfect fit for this project, it would have to be WETA. The world has been masterfully updated and translated to a big screen live action movie.
But even though it looks great, “Ghost in the Shell” suffers from some unfortunate downsides which are entirely its own fault. First, the plot can be described as convoluted. Both the new and original versions feature complex themes centered around the characteristics of humanity and how that is effected with the introduction of cybernetic enhancements. On top of the less-than-mainstream plot and themes, “Ghost in the Shell” has been severely hurt by bad press. The movie has suffered heavily in the box office due to a controversy surrounding the film’s “whitewashing.” Before the film was even released, it was accused of using too many Caucasian actors. In actuality, this is just simply not an issue. Scarlett Johansson’s race is inconsequential, considering that she fits the role very well.
The 2017 remake of “Ghost in the Shell” is great for what it is, as well as a marked improvement on the original. All of the controversy surrounding the movie is baseless and extremely unfortunate. This movie does not deserve all of the bad press and poor box office presence. It is a shame that a movie with so much money and effort behind it can be destroyed by the words of a few. “Ghost in the Shell” is a great reimagining of a classic anime story with an updated plot, visuals, and sounds that come together to make an entertaining science fiction experience.