Ghost in the Shell (2017) Review — Japanese Ghost in the Machine

In this iteration, one of said machines is white. There, that’s my acknowledgement of the race issue.

  • For god’s sakes, how many fucking Ghost in the Shell iterations can you make in Masamune Shirow’s lifetime? Saying there’s quite a few of them is a bit of an understatement now, and it’s just getting ridiculously repetitive at this point. I mean did we really need an American live-action adaptation/remake of the first Oshii film? And let’s not forget it shares the same name with the 90s film AND that recent 2015 movie based on the Arise universe, which makes me wonder what the fuck we’re supposed to call this just so that people would stop confusing the different adaptations.
  • And if anyone suggest Ghost in the Shell 2017, I hope that you die a slow painful death far away from me. Because if you can’t see the complications that arise from that, you obviously never heard of Sonic 2006.
  • So of those you not familiar with anything from this universe, Ghost in the Shell is a cyberpunk franchise that follows a cyborg named Motoko Kusanagi (who’s named Mira Killian in this iteration because Scarlett Johannsen is about as Japanese as I am Indian) aka “the Major” and her team as they deal with crimes related to its technologically advanced world, usually in the form of cyborgs who exist as “ghosts” living in machines. It kinda depends on the iteration what direction the story actually takes with the premise, but for the most part, that’s what they all boil down to.

This scene is definitely not as sexy in live-action at the very least

  • This live-action version has Section 9 pursuing a man named Kuze, a guy waging a one-man war against a robotics company for reasons that I can’t spoil. In pursuit of the man, Major Kusanagi ends up discovering the truth about her past along with a secret conspiracy regarding her employers that’s far more threatening than she could have ever predicted. So basically, it combines a bit of the old Ghost in the Shell with a bit of the most recent animated Ghost in the Shell, with the results being…well you really shouldn’t ask me about that, because I can’t wrap my head around this franchise for the life of me.
  • I honestly don’t know how people can get sucked into the Ghost in the Shell universe, because it is one of the most impenetrable franchises I have ever seen in anime. Yes the world is cool. The philosophy is cool. There was a time when I did “love” this franchise, but that was mostly due to me being a shithead who wanted to conform to elitist opinions back then, along with liking the “idea” of Ghost in the Shell.
  • But as cool as the substance is, Ghost in the Shell is very bad at letting me into its world to appreciate it. Most of that comes from all the characters being mature professionals, which means they don’t have any personal struggles or pathos to latch onto, and when they do, it’s either dealt with too maturely or too incompetently to be engaging. And almost none of the plots personally involve them either, meaning we don’t get much personal stakes or chemistry between Section 9 and the villains like in other “cold” anime like Lain or Texhnolyze.

I find it funny how Batou’s eyes get singed in this scene, but his coat is just fine

  • As such, fans of the film are probably ecstatic that the live-action film got that aspect correct, since I found myself zoning out around twenty minutes in due to every single character delivering their dialogue so coldly that I wanted whiny Anakin Skywalker (or whiny 9S from Nier Automata for a more accurate and timely reference) to burst in and make me laugh. Just about the only time I could latch on to anything was during an action scene, which are decent for the most part, or when I saw a scene from the original 90s film being recreated in live-action and laughed in a similar manner to when I saw the live-action Beauty and the Beast.
  • From what I could pay attention to, I can definitely say that the live-action film’s philosophy is pretty simplistic as far as AI tales are concerned. Most of it boils down to cyborgs being humans in a previous life with no real surprises, and nothing really interesting comes from the Major learning about her true origins or discovering someone she used to know as a human. The major villain is mostly just a standard higher-up whose weapon turned against him, the cyberpunk setting never felt like it was the focus, and with the exception of Chief Aramaki, none of the other characters really move things along. I mean Togusa never did anything anyways and we see the incident that caused Batou to have cyber-eyes, but that doesn’t really help things.
  • I do have a friend who’s a big fan of the franchise that saw the movie though, and he explained to me that he found the recreation of classic scenes soulless. Also, changing Aramaki into…whatever the hell Beat Takeshi was doing didn’t sit well with him either. Considering Ghost in the Shell‘s quality pretty much lives on how strong the philosophy is, it’s not really a surprise that it got as critically panned as it did. I mean without that, all you’re left with is the cold presentation not told through animation. And why would anyone want that over the much better alternatives?

Ghost in the Shell always looks so nice. Too bad I’m not actually participating in its activities. Ever.

  • There’s plenty to pick on regarding this film on its own, by the way. It’s not just living up to a classic franchise in a medium that’s inherently not as expressive as other mediums that’s the problem. The connection between the setpieces and plot points are looser than a ripped bra and the dialogue is mostly exposition or moving from Point A to Point B. Last I checked, that’s pretty much the death knell for fiction that’s driven primarily by talking. And while Ghost in the Shell is technically an action franchise, it’s the dialogue that most people watch the series for, because we pretty much take for granted that the action is decent quality at this point in time. It’s kind of like how most Mass Effect fans play the game for story whilst taking for granted that the animation and gameplay are absolute ass.
  • Ghost in the Shell is a classic for a reason I guess, but it got over-milked a long time ago to the point that most fans haven’t even watched Solid State Society, and I don’t know why we’re still trying to keep it alive rather than quietly let it bow out in grace. Especially considering we’re not exactly starved for cyber stories centered on hot females given the reception Nier Automata got upon release. Mind you, if they ever make a live-action movie out of that, I’m gonna roll my eyes. In addition to the usual video game movie problems, I can’t see any actress rocking the 2B outfit the way I did when I was in control of her.

Minor Quips

  • You know, I can’t remember any of Section 9’s names apart from the main four. Is that a common thing?
  • I wonder what a Ghost in the Shell amusement park attraction would be like?

4 responses to “Ghost in the Shell (2017) Review — Japanese Ghost in the Machine

  1. Haven’t got a chance to see this yet, since I’m busy as hell. Honestly though, even before the release, I already suspected that the surrounding controversies and arguments will be more interesting than the film itself. Seems like I’m right.

    Still, it’s strange to see the fanbase got so divided by the movie. Some love the visual and love ScarJo, because Hollywood’s recent cyberpunk outputs are all crap. Some hate it for being shallow. Others like the visual but dislike the rest of the film. Amusingly, some people think it’s mediocre but still hope for a better sequel. I can see the film becoming a cult hit in the future. Critical reception actually aren’t that bad. The 40% on RT is meaningless, because most reviews boil down to “look good, shallow, but still fun”. Seriously, Rotten Tomatoes is ruining people’s ability to read. I might still go to see it if I have time. After all, I did enjoy Wachowski’s Speed Racer, so why not this one?

  2. I thought the film was fine on its own, but yeah your friend is right about certain scenes not having the impact they had in the original.

    I also thought a lot of the dialogue was too heavy-handed, especially near the beginning. “You still have a human brain, just a cyborg body, it’s your ghost in the shell”…

    Still liked it overall, and I think it’s accessible (as much as you want to believe GitS is accessible) to people who haven’t watched any of its other iterations.

  3. I enjoyed the film, but must admit more out of nostalgia, seeing the seminal scenes from Oshii’s classic being brought to live action almost by the frame. I think the director/producers made the mistake of adapting Oshii’s film instead of going to Shirow’s original manga for inspiration. I think the latter, with a more humorous, lighthearted tone, might have played better to audiences in 2017 that like their scifi and action to be light.

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