With the imminent upcoming release of the DVD, Craig Johnson thought it might be a good idea to provide an unbiased review of the movie…
I originally drafted this on the day that the film was released, but things got in the way and I didn’t write it up – until now; just before the release of the DVD. As one of the most controversial films of the year in the sci-fi community, primarily due to the casting of Scarlett Johansson as a character predominantly displayed as Japanese; Ghost in the Shell caught my eye as being something a little different. I’d heard of, but never seen the original, so thought that I would give it a go given the dearth of decent science fiction in recent years, (I hold out little hope for the genre if the best it can offer is the upcoming Valerian!) On paper Ghost looked to have a lot in common with the excellent and deeply thought provoking Ex Machina.
Sadly, no such luck. Ex Machina is a thought provoking view on what it means to be sentient. Ghost in the Shell is anything but thought provoking and follows a plot line so predictable that it scarcely needs a script!
To me Johansson has always been a wooden actress, but in some respects this role suits her. The initial straight laced Major, a cyborg weapons system who learns that her life is in fact a lie through the medium of investigating another failed experiment, suits Johansson’s style up to the point where Major comes to terms with her humanity. It’s at this point, for me, that Johansson starts to struggle.
The biggest issue is that this is the extent of the plot and any twists are few and far between; especially in a laboured first half.
For me, the root cause here was a writer who did not know what they wanted; an action movie, a showcase for Johansson’s undoubted physical attributes or an exploration of humanity. They have instead ended up with a messy hybrid of all three which results in little back story, little exposition and precious little emotional buy in. I do concede however that the support cast are excellent and what depth there is to the movie comes from them. For all the flaws it has though, this is an undeniably stunning film in a visual sense, (and I am not talking about Johansson either). The effects heavy film manages to avoid becoming a show of CGI, but the work is undoubtedly some of the best in recent science fiction films. Clint Mansell’s score of the film enhances the overall effect and retains his own trademark style. The influence of the matrix is clear in the fight scenes, but other than an initial flurry the film does not rely too heavily on it – so you do not feel that this is simply a clone of that trilogy,
Ghost is not a bad film and I have no idea how it compares to the original; but equally the trudging pace to the conclusion means that it is not a brilliant film either. There is simply no sense that the writers ever felt they could depart from the basic plot even slightly. The visuals make the film worth a DVD purchase but there are better action films out there and equally films which do a far better job of exploring what it means to be human or machine.