Film Review: Ghost in the Shell

by Evan Brown

Rated M. Starring Scarlett Johansson, Pilou Asbæk, Takeshi Kitano. Directed by Rupert Sanders.

‘They didn’t save you. They stole you…’

It’s a brave and bold move when Hollywood takes a cult classic Japanese film and decides to bring it to a western audience. Sometimes it pays off (The Ring, A Fistful of Dollars) and sometimes it doesn’t (The Grudge, Dark Water). Despite the risks, Rupert Sanders (Snow White and the Huntsman) decided to take the gamble and direct a real footage remake of the legendary anime: Ghost in the Shell.

Fanboys and fangirls around the world trembled with excitement and anticipation over who would play heroine android Major and what the futuristic world of Ghost in the Shell would look like on the big screen. Although the casting of Major (Johansson) has received mixed reception, fans will not be disappointed with this Hollywood adaptation.

In case 80s/90s anime isn’t your thing and this is the first you’ve heard about Ghost in the Shell, the concept is easy to grasp.  In a futuristic Japanese world where cybernetic modification and robots are all the rage, protagonist Major is the first of her kind – a cyber enhanced perfect soldier with the body of a robot and the brain of a human. Her soul and mind (aka her ghost) is in a mechanical shell.  When key members of the Hanka Corporation start being targeted for assassination Major is asked to investigate.  Upon her investigation Major uncovers dark secrets about the assassins, the Hanka Corporation and her forgotten past.

Unfortunately, Ghost in the Shell has been receiving a lot of negative press for “whitewashing” an anime classic.  I find this quite strange because anime has been doing that to itself for decades and there really aren’t that many ‘Asian’ characters in the original film anyway. If you can look past the controversy Ghost in the Shell is a visual treat with stunning visuals and action sequences (I highly recommend the 3D version).

Rupert Sanders has put a lot of effort into keeping the spirit of the original movie including many impressive shot for shot scene remakes. Johansson portrays a convincing representation of Major and is surrounded by appropriately cast supporting actors. The fans will be impressed (spider tank makes an appearance) as will the sci-fi genre lovers. Ghost in the Shell is reminiscent of sci-fi classics such as Blade Runner and The Matrix but with more crazy Japanese ideas and a slower-paced anime style storyline.

Throughout the film Major attempts to discover who she is and where she came from. As someone with the mind and soul of a human but a body of a machine you can imagine her personal battle with her identity.  Upon her the first confrontation with villain Kuze he tries to console her saying:

“Your shell belongs to them but your ghost is yours”

Although her body is property of the corporation that made her, Major’s soul and mind belong to her. The idea of a soul is an interesting concept and its existence doesn’t get questioned at all in the movie.  Do you give much thought to your own soul?  Do you believe it exists?  Do you believe it will live on after your body dies?

When Jesus sends out his disciples he encourages them by saying “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul” (Matthew 10:28).  Christians have hope in life after death as we believe our souls have been saved by God through his grace which is the gift of his son Jesus.  If you do believe you have a soul, are you confident with what will happen to it after your body passes away?

The Verdict: When remaking a cult classic you’re always going to be fighting an uphill battle. As an original fanboy I thought this Hollywood adaptation caught the essence and flow of the original anime yet with some added western flair. 3.5/5

Ghost in the Shell opens in cinemas worldwide this week.

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