The Movie: Ghost in the Shell
The Director: Rupert Sanders (Snow White and the Huntsman)
The Cast: Scarlett Johansson, Pilou Asbæk, Takeshi Kitano, Juliette Binoche, Michael Pitt, Chin Han, Danusia Samal, Lasarus Latuere, Yutaka Izumihara, Peter Ferdinando, and Anamaria Marinca
The Story: In the near future, Major is the first of her kind: A human saved from a terrible crash, who is cyber-enhanced to be a perfect soldier devoted to stopping the world's most dangerous criminals.
If you aren't already aware, this is a live action remake of one of the most popular Japanese Manga titles ever made so there was a lot at stake in bringing such a coveted property to life. While Rupert Sanders is not the most experienced director, his visually bold work on Snow White and the Huntsman had to be an influence in him landing this job as the world of Major, played by Scarlett Johansson, and her Section 9 anti-terrorist group. As with any form of adaptation, changes were made to the story and characters, some more well received than others during the film's production. For my part, I thought the story was well put together although it lacked a strong emotional punch which would have really helped to sell the themes of identity and humanity that are at the core of this film.
The cast for this film features a pretty diverse mix of actors playing characters who represent an equally diverse Tokyo of the future. What's interesting about the story is how it represents new ideas about what diversity means when robotic replacements are added into the mix and people can become whoever they want, sometimes against their will or without even knowing. Johannson leads this effort as she has to play a character who believes one thing about who she is while eventually being shown that everything she has ever known may not be as real as it has seemed. Other characters, like her partner Batou, played by Pilou Asbæk (The Great Wall), and fellow Section 9 member Saito, played by Yutaka Izumihara, although Major is the only one, that we know of, who is a living person inside of a completely robotic shell.
Visually, this movie is absolutely stunning and filled with the kind of ground breaking effects that you would expect from an adaptation of such groundbreaking source material. I'm not even going to try to describe what you will see in this movie, but it is very impressive from start to finish. What you see on screen is a big part of what drives the story and really helps to put you inside a Tokyo that is part of a futuristic world where robots and virtual reality are as commonplace as cars and cell phones are to us here in the real world. While it's still early in the year, I would have to think that this movie will get some attention during awards season for the work that was put in by the special effects companies involved with bringing everything to life.
Ghost in the Shell is a very bold and ambitious film that is action packed and entertaining yet falls a little flat when it comes to creating an equally bold and ambitious story. I liked the movie and would recommend it to anyone who is a fan of science fiction, anime, or Scarlett Johannson for that matter although I'm not sure how it will be received by a more broad audience.
I have not seen the film in either 3D or IMAX and, from what I have read, both features are a little underwhelming and underutilized which is odd given the type of film that it is. I enjoyed it just fine in 3D so not sure if it's worth the upgrade.