(Originally posted 7th May 2017)
The original Ghost in the Shell had a niche audience and is certainly lauded within its own world, but one can only assume that the purpose of a flashy big budget western live action version was to court a wider audience. And there does seem to at least be an attempt at that here, as they change the story, presumably to make it easier to understand what the hell is going on. Unfortunately, they don't exactly replace it with anything more interesting.
They still play with ideas of identity and the nature of humanity but only really in the sense of someone's identity being threatened or blocked rather than in the bigger picture sense of “what is life?” and “what defines humanity?”. The original was asking questions about the nature of man and machine and the consequences of combining the two. This new version does ask something similar but it feels like twenty years of progress should have changed that conversation somehow. The ghost in question is the soul, the seat of our personality, but this film seems to make it more about memories. Is the point that we are shaped by our experiences? I'm not really sure.
So the meaning behind it all is still a bit fuzzy but how does it measure up as a spectacle? It pretty much delivers what you'd expect and the cityscapes are all suitably impressive. The design elements combine sleek futurism with industrial dystopia. It all feels right without really jumping out at you. The action scenes, which are presumably a big selling point, are at least satisfactory but nothing special in a post-Matrix world.
The film attempts to pay homage to (or rip off) the original by including some classic scenes but unfortunately they neglect to also add in the context that made those scenes make sense. So in the original the big bad hacker manages to trick people into doing things for his benefit by creating false ideas in their minds, such as having a family. But here he just takes control of people for no obvious reason just to create a fight scene and then confuse them by giving them fake memories that don't add anything to the plot. And then he makes the guy kill himself, which was also unnecessary and makes the ending more uncomfortable when we have to sympathise with the bad guy after we learn of his motivations. The whole thing is just very messy.
Everything about this film was just alright. It had no spark, no self-belief, but it got the job done. Scarlett Johansson was the same as ever; it's been a long time since I've seen her do any real acting. Everyone else fitted into their roles neatly without standing out. And that really sums it up.
Not faithful enough for the fans and not original enough for newcomers.
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