Interesting Ideas; Mixed Results
Went and saw the new Ghost in the Shell movie with some friends and the movie felt pretty average. It was what you might expect from a Hollywood action film but still had nods to source material that made it feel somewhat unique compared to if the film was truly “Westernized.”
This write up will be a bit shorter, since I’m coming off the film fresh. In addition to my own thoughts, I’ll be providing the thoughts of the two people that went with me. It’ll be like getting 3 reviews in 1!
In case you missed my previous article detailing what I expected from the film an my franchise knowledge, take a moment to go check that out here. I went with “The K’s” to see this one, a married couple who I watch all the ABC anime with, and they have varied level of experience with Ghost in the Shell.
Mrs. K, as we’ll call her, had never seen any of it and is really picky about films. Mr. K on the other hand, has seen some of the S.A.C. series but hasn’t seen more than the first season thus far. They expected the film to be enjoyable. I’ll be paraphrasing their thoughts below.
Let’s kick things off with my thoughts and opinions first:
The director of this new live-action adaptation of Ghost in the Shell obviously cared about respecting the original work. There is a lot of attention to detail in total recreations of several scenes and some of the characterization in the film is handled very well. Fans of the original film and TV series will likely enjoy those scenes the most, since they were largely my favorite bits of the movie.
My issues with the film are only when it deviates heavily from the original works. The Major feels a bit weak. It feels like they had the right idea for how to portray her, but her character came off as being in constant crisis mode while lacking in some of the strong points that made her a great character in the original ’95 film (and other works).
Some of the scenes that they added to make The Major work for the narrative in this film felt weird. Many of them did not work for me at all and her dialog was kind of a toss up. It wasn’t like it was awful or anything, just pretty jarring compared to how I expect The Major to be portrayed.
Other than The Major, everybody else felt pretty close to how you’d expect. Batou and The Major still have a relational undertone, Aramaki was a cool old dude, etc…
Aramaki was interesting as they had him speak Japanese only. His character was the best part of this film and easily the best acted. 10/10 performance from the actor that portrayed him, very impressed.
Aesthetically, the movie had its moments. Sometimes the “urban” thing was working for me but other times the world felt a bit flat and dead. Many of the set pieces did not help with this either as they were mostly empty feeling, even when populated.
The film’s practical effects in the Geisha scenes were excellent. The moments like that, with a lot of detail in both the set pieces and props, were highlights of the film. Just as cool as I had expected them to be.
Note to whoever did the effects/lighting for this film. My goodness, there were several times where I couldn’t even look at the screen. Extremely bright strobe effects, weird pulsating light (that was also very bright), and towards the end some of the explosions were too much as well. I liked the action sequences, but these moments made some of them insufferable.
I was correct in that the film decided to blend ides from the original film and S.A.C. with Kuze as the, sort of, bad guy. Kuze still had aspects of The Puppet Master thrown in, as well as being OG Kuze, but felt like his own entity overall. This change was a good thing for the film. To avoid spoiling things, that’s all I’m going to say but it was handled well.
Unfortunately, the story still had some pacing issues that I felt the original film had. Additionally, the film beats you over the head with what the title means, what a ghost is, what a shell is, and that was annoying. The audience isn’t stupid, they don’t need it explained every 15 minutes.
Funny side note, I had to restrain myself from laughing at one scene in particular. Kuze was doing his best Spike Spiegel impression, and if he would have said, “bang” I would have genuinely lost it.
Overall, the film has a respect for what came before it that fans should appreciate. If you’ve seen a lot of Ghost in the Shell this movie feels a bit too Blade Runner or even Robo Cop at times, so millage will vary. Sometimes the direction was on point and exceeded expectation, some changes to the 1995 film were great, and I did enjoy it for most of its run.
Mr. K’s Thoughts:
Ghost in the Shell‘s live-action adaptation fixed some of the problems I felt Stand Alone Complex had. The setting in this film felt more believable for me and the alterations I noticed were pretty cool. I enjoyed the way everything looked and thought the characters were done pretty well.
I was a bit disappointed with the portrayal of The Major, but could see why some changes were made for the narrative of the film. As Jon stated, Aramaki’s character was portrayed expertly as well.
Like Jon said, the effects were too much sometimes and I too had to look away several times.
The movie was pretty good but not amazing.
Mrs. K’s Thoughts:
For someone who hasn’t seen anything related to the Ghost in the Shell franchise, I thought the movie was really good. I would even like to own this when it comes out for purchase.
The filmmakers knew what they were doing and from what I can tell, made wise decisions to make the narrative work for a more Western audience. I found the characters and world to be believable. Kind of felt like a better or revamped Blade Runner for me.
Unlike the other two, the effects work didn’t bother me. Instead, I found the subtitles for Aramaki to be obnoxious. They kept moving around a lot which made the movie feel kind of like a superhero film, if that makes sense? It just felt out of place, his character was cool though.
We all thought the film was a mostly positive experience. I don’t think I would personally recommend rushing out to see it though. Of course, supporting the film tells the people who made it that there is a market for this sort of thing. It was a big step up from other live-action adaptations and if the criticism from this film is taken seriously, I think anime is pretty close from getting more adaptations that people will watch.
Have you seen Ghost in the Shell, plan to, or giving it a pass? Let me know what you think in the comments below. Remember to leave a like if you enjoyed reading this and I hope to see you back here again soon!