Ghost in the Shell: a 2-minute review

The 2017 remake of the manga classic is marvelous to behold, but not especially filling emotionally.

Ghost in the Shell

Ghost in the Shell

Went to see Ghost in the Shell the other day. In IMAX. IMAX 3-D, to be precise. Initial impressions:

1) It’s just fucking gorgeous. The designers have studied the classics, from Blade Runner on down, and they create a world that does justice to the genre. This flick ought to win all the technical Oscars.

2) The story itself works well. Coherent, well-paced, easy to track even if you aren’t an SF or Cyberpunk aficionado. My girlfriend, who doesn’t know the genre at all, thought the story was its greatest strength.

3) Ghost in the Shell‘s one big negative is that it’s so emotionally flat. Blade Runner, for instance (which I come back to because it’s pretty much the definitive moment in Cyberpunk film), was compelling emotionally – you found yourself in tears over the plight of replicants who were, by human standards, pure sociopaths. Complex and sympathetic, sure, but stone-cold sociopaths nonetheless.

Here, though, you don’t hate the villains as much as you should. Cutter is the archetypal Cyberpunk company bad guy, and while we want to see him get what’s coming, the portrayal is stock, straight out of central casting. In the end, he just doesn’t give us a lot to work with.

And as stunning as Scarlett Johansson is to look at, in the end you feel like you’re admiring an especially pretty toaster.

Now, intellectually this is maybe okay. Major is a pretty toaster. And in a world defined by alienation and betrayal, maybe you have to be an idiot to show any vulnerability at all. Keep the ghost behind a shell even if you’re human, I guess.

But it doesn’t make for engaging cinema.

I’ve seen a couple very positive reviews, but the consensus of Rotten Tomatoes critics is that “the end result lacks the magic of the movie’s classic source material.” Lacks magic – I think that’s a good way to put it.

Still … damn, it was a feast for the eyes. If you’re a viewer who can absorb yourself into a film’s style, then it’s definitely worth the price.

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