REVIEW: ‘Ghost In The Shell’ Contains Plenty Of Style, Not Enough Substance

Like the robots featured on screen, the 2017 “Ghost in the Shell” feels all too artificial in many aspects.

An adaptation of the 1995 anime film of the same name, “Ghost in the Shell” follows the cybernetic character Major Mira Killian (Scarlett Johansson). The first of her kind, Killian was created as an experiment, taking the brain of a human whose body had been heavily injured and placing it in a robotic body. The story picks up with Killian working as part of an anti-terrorism unit in a futuristic city, mainly working alongside her partner Batou (Pilou Asbæk).

The flick follows Killian on another mission that leads to an investigation into a new dangerous criminal who’s hacking the minds of various people. As she digs further into the investigation, though, Killian is also led into a path where she discovers more of her past.

It’s tough to really go into great detail about this adaptation of “Ghost in the Shell” without putting a minefield of spoilers out there. However, it can be said here that the film is largely dull, as it lacks the depth that made the 95 picture so memorable while also featuring too many generic moments.

On the latter, the flick features a fairly straightforward detective story thread, albeit one set in the future. As the picture’s story develops, it’s revealed that there’s some shady corporate greed going on and ultimately this leads to an evil rich character. This aspect of the movie seemed all too common for one based on something so groundbreaking.

On the subject of depth featured in this “Ghost in the Shell,” the movie stumbles largely because of its execution. In this adaptation, Killian’s character arc largely deals with her trying to find her past and discover who she really is. Not only does this miss the philosophical questions of humanity that made people fall in love with the 95 picture, it also is done in a way that feels rather hollow and lifeless.

As a result, instead of being engaged and emotionally invested whenever we as an audience discover a new segment of Killian’s past, there’s a feeling of disconnect, as if nothing happened at all.

This, unfortunately, happens because of both Johansson’s performance and the material she was given to work with. Simply put, the movie makes Mira Killian too bland. For much of the film Johansson just has her character put on a thousand yard stare, and while this does make Killian intimidating and a natural fit for an action star, it doesn’t work as much for a person who’s trying to figure out what and who they are.

The supporting cast didn’t particularly help the situation, either, as Takeshi Kitano and Juliette Binoche both played their roles far too stiff and rigidly to have a real impact. The one real standout, casting wise, was Asbæk, who was quite serviceable in his role.

The single shining spot in the 2017 “Ghost in the Shell” was how it looked. There’s no mistake that the film was absolutely gorgeous from a visual standpoint. The film captures the futuristic city and its surroundings while also recreating the look of the characters and bringing them all to life. In fact, the movie takes sequences directly from the animated feature and recreates them here to great success.

When accounting for that, along with some solid music, the movie scores some points for its style. That style, though, doesn’t make up for the lack of substance, though.

The 2017 “Ghost in the Shell” doesn’t have the philosophical questions of the original, its own inquiries raised about humanity, such as ‘what makes a person who they are?’ is rolled out somewhat sloppily, the acting hampers that attempt at depth and the core story of the investigation is been-there-done-that. Maybe rent the flick for how well it looks, and that’s about it. 2.7 out of 5.

Author: Matthew Liedke

Journalist and film critic in Minnesota. Graduate of Rainy River College and Minnesota State University in Moorhead. Outside of movies I also enjoy sports, craft beers and the occasional video game.

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