Today: July 22, 2024

Ghost In The Shell

Based on a manga and cult favourite anime Ghost In The Shell should be a slam dunk of a live action adaption. Especially given it stars Hollywood’s biggest grossing actress Scarlett Johansson and is directed by the visual prowess of Snow White & The Huntsman’s Rupert Sanders. But with a production budget of over $100 million, a global box office of only $167 million and controversy surrounding the whitewashing of Asian characters, Ghost In The Shell will go down as one of 2017’s biggest flops. But is that fair?

Picture this; a sprawling futuristic metropolis bathed in neon lights and heavily branded advertising. Corporations own the skyline, Blade Runner style. A lone heroic figure, The General (Johansson), stands atop a building overlooking the city she protects, her jacket billowing in the wind like a cape, the kind of shot The Dark Knight would be proud of. And then, she swan dives off the building into a balletic shootout with slo-mo bullets flying in a way that Neo would see in binary code in The Matrix.

This is the world of Ghost In The Shell. And it is because it echoes so many other films that it fails to ever grip your imagination. There is a moment in Sanders’ Snow White where a regal stag stands in a shallow pool of water, the embodiment of the spirit of the woods. For anyone who has seen the iconic Princess Mononoke this image feels more than familiar. Aaron Sorkin once said, “Good writers borrow from other writers. Great writers steal from them outright.” The greats know how to cover their tracks, they steal ideas and adapt them into something different.

The languid point here is Sanders’ visuals are undoubtedly impressive, he is unquestionably a good filmmaker. But, at this point in his career, he is not a great one. Because you can site so readily the influences he’s stealing from.

What is more Ghost In The Shell is a film that plays to the lowest common denominator. In a film that deals with similar themes and ideas to Blade Runner why would you reduce it to little more than a popcorn CGI-fest with little to say? So by-the-numbers obvious is it that in one of the opening scenes someone actually feels the need to explain what the ‘Ghost’ in the ‘Shell’ is. God forbid that a film could credit an audience with some semblance of intellect to figure such things out for themselves. As if we’d sit there asking, “where are the ghosts in this mess?” Come to think of it, Deckard in Blade Runner does little running and never uses a blade, so what’s that all about?

But the real crime here is the waste of both great source material and an actress who has continually proven to be a box office draw with a difference. The General should be a big role for Johansson, a film that should have launched an action franchise with a female protagonist arguably stronger than anything The Hunger Games could muster. Instead The General here is written as a heartless, robotic bore. Why cast an actress of Johansson’s calibre and then not utilise her talents?

Ghost In The Shell is a film that demonstrates why we can’t have nice things like a live-action Akira. And for that alone it’s probably made more box office than it has any right to.

Alex Moss Editor

Alex Moss’ obsession with film began the moment he witnessed the Alien burst forth from John Hurt’s stomach. It was perhaps ill-advised to witness this aged 6 but much like the beast within Hurt, he became infected by a parasite called ‘Movies’. Rarely away from his computer or a big screen, as he muses on Cinematic Deities, Alex is “more machine now than man. His mind is twisted and evil”. Email: alex.moss@filmjuice.com

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