Before I talk about this film, I feel like I must first address the fanboys. Or more importantly the anime fanboys. You all suck. I kind of look at them like goths. At a certain age it just becomes sad, almost creepy that you’re still really into this. I get it, you found it at a young age and it spoke to you, but you aren’t 13 anymore. Grow the fuck up.
No matter what you do, you can never satisfy weirdo fanboyism. They bitch and moan about wanting their anime live action adaptations and when they actually get them, they hate it instantly before even seeing it. Just take the new Death Note film coming to Netflix. They’ve been asking for it for years, but now that it’s finally here… Instantly they hate it.
It’s the same way with Akira. They keep asking for it, but as soon as the first trailer drops, they’ll cry about American studios ruining their anime! Akira is shit by the way. It’s a bigger incoherent mess as the Ghost in the Shell anime.
Another complaint is the claim of whitewashing, which oddly enough only white guys seem bothered by. Max Landis actually made perfect sense in defense of the studio’s decision to cast Scarlett Johansson instead of an Asian actress. For one, name one Asian actress that has the name recognition or box office draw as Scarlett Johansson.
Don’t worry, I’ll wait…
Hell, just name an Asian actress people will recognize.
I’m still waiting, guys…
Lucy Liu? Maybe if this film was getting made in 2003.
Bai Ling? Really? You’re not even trying, are you?
The fact of the matter is, no Asian actress you can think of has the name recognition as Scarjo. Do you want your anime made? Then you gotta give a bit, fanboys. They’re making this for a western audience (and China) But guess what, China doesn’t mind having white actors in their films. Why do you think Matt Damon was picked to be in The Great Wall? It’s because the guy is HUGE in China. China kinda doesn’t like seeing Asian actors in their movies. I know, crazy, right? But it’s true.
Also, why does The Major need to be Japanese anyways? She’s a fucking android, she doesn’t have a race or a nationality. Hell, technically she doesn’t even have a gender.
This might be a good segue into talking about the film. So here we go.
I liked it. I really did. It’s a good film. But I think it does suffer from John Carter syndrome. Meaning the subject matter is so old and so influential that a lot of what you’re about to see has already been done before in other films. So instantly Ghost in the Shell has this stink of unoriginality even though it highly influenced films like say The Matrix.
Another complaint you’ll hear is how dumbed down this film seems. Yes, it is kind of dumbed down. A lot of the philosophical talk and the politics that fill the original film and series are pretty much watered down here. The original 80 minute anime film was basically nothing but characters standing around, looking off at something in the distance and having long boring conversations about international trade agreements.
I do however wish they focused a bit more on Section 9, the special tactical team that deals with hackers and augmented terrorists. This adaptation borrows a lot from the first two anime films and bits and pieces from the tv series. It’s basically a hodgepodge of a bunch of different things. What I liked about the series is it spent time with the other team members. They also spent time investigating a crime, they weren’t just a tactical unit that went in to fuck your shit up, they were detectives, each with a particular skill set. None of that is really showcased here.
In the film we barely get any screen time with the rest of the team aside from Batou, her more or less partner. And I don’t mean sexual partner. The Major’s sexuality has always been a bit ambiguous. Her whole thing is, she doesn’t really see herself as having much of a gender, seeing as her body is just plastic and wires. But when she does have sex, it’s usually with other women and by sex I mean it’s kind of like the sex Sandra Bullock wanted to have with Sylvester Stallone in Demolition Man. Meaning sex with their minds!
But it is also suggested that she might have a thing for Togusa in the tv series. He’s the only one on the team that doesn’t have any kind of enhancements. He’s kind of barely in the film, so mentioning him seems pointless.
Clearly there’s something between her and Batou, like in the other anime films and tv series, it’s never fully addressed, but there’s something. Mostly one sided on Batou’s part.
Also, if you went into this film hoping to see that lesbian kiss on the big screen that the trailers promised, you’re going to be pretty disappointed. It was cut. Most of her lesbian tendencies were. I’m not sure on the reasons why. It couldn’t be for time and they clearly show it in the trailers… so what happened?
Anyway, let’s get down to the plot. For real this time.
Scarlett Johansson plays Major, an android with a human brain. Or if you prefer a human brain with an android body. Scarlett Johansson’s body.
The Major doesn’t have much of her original memories left, just that terrorist killed her family on a boat as they were trying to get into this country. Which I assume is Japan. I don’t really remember them ever saying where this is taking place. In the series, America has basically become a third world country, even making a power play in later seasons. But for this film it might as well be the city from Big Hero 6 San Fransokyo.
In this world, Hanka is king. They’re the corporation that leads in human augmentations, even having sway with the government. They also oversee Section 9, run by Aramaki, played by Beat Takeshi. The only other actor I recognized in this film.
When the Major gets her new robotic body she is placed in Section 9, her sole purpose I guess is to go after Kuze, a terrorist going after known members of Hanka Corp. So already we’re getting into Demolition Man territory aside from the mind sex. Which we never see!
One of my issues is there’s no investigation into Kuze. They automatically know who he is and how to find him. Like I stated before, in the series they’d always spent time investigating the crime, following clues… actual detective work.
Everything is kind of streamlined here. This film is 2 hours long, but it really doesn’t feel it. At least not to me. I know some found the film lagging in spots. I didn’t.
Major keeps having memory flashes, glitches she calls them. She isn’t sure what they mean, but she knows something is off. While tracking down Kuze, she finally gets some answers. She wasn’t the first human brain in a robotic body like she was told. He was. Well, like a hundred more to be exact, but all failed experiments.
Kuze is out for revenge and answers to who he really is. He and the Major have some kind of connection, they just don’t know what.
And in a twist that everyone I’m sure saw coming, the real bad guy of this story was Cutter, the head of Hanka. He’s been trying to cover up all his dirty dealings, killing whoever he pleases to do it.
The film is kind of by the books. It does stay pretty loyal to the source material, it may be taking from here and there, but you can’t say this isn’t Ghost in the Shell. They even go out of their way to flawlessly reenact shots from the anime.
I’m not the biggest Scarlett Johansson fan, I’ve warmed up to her over the years, but seeing her in The Spirit was enough to convince me she might be the worst actress in the world. She has since redeemed herself. But wow was it hard to recover from that monstrosity.
I also really loved Batou, he’s always been my favorite character. In the film he loses his eyes but instead of getting normal implants, he goes tactical. He also drives a bad ass car. Like if DeLorean kept making cars and the natural progression was whatever Batou was driving. Me want. Me want car now!
And of course Beat Takeshi, you can’t put him in a film and not have him do something cool. Thankfully they gave him his moment to shine as he’s ambushed by Cutter’s men. Beat takes them out the way only a bad ass could. By a briefcase and a revolver.
The action in this I thought was pretty great, it’s done the way I like action to be shot, not shaky, right to the point, never lingering too much. There are a few slow mo scenes but nothing up there as annoying as something Zack Snyder or Michael Bay would use. The action is fast and hits hard.
The main draw is the city itself. It’s a beautiful, amazing looking lived in city. If you said this was taking place in the same universe as Bladerunner, I’d believe it. And like Bladerunner, amazing visuals might be the film’s strongest attributes.
How was Scarlett Johansson’s performance anyways? Very robotic. I mean, I get she is trapped in a machine, but she isn’t a robot. Maybe it’s just the character. Major has always been pretty robotic in nature. She doesn’t really say much, she never jokes around from what I remember. She’s always been this tiny bisexual ass kicker with not much else. She does make sure to take a few moments to wax philosophical about life and what it means to be an android, but besides that I kind of really dislike this character. I was never much of a fan of hers. Scarjo basically plays her the way she did in Lucy. But maybe a less aspergery.
I might have some problems with the film but it is far better than most live action anime adaptations. Something even the Japanese haven’t been able to pull off. And we are far from the disasters that were Aeon Flux and Dragonball Evolution. Compared to those films, this is a fucking masterpiece.
Seeing as how Boss Baby beat this film out at the box office, maybe this film was a bit of a failure. Or maybe Boss Baby is just that good.
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