Vids I Dig 227: Filmento: ‘Ghost In The Shell’: Death By Invisibility

From Filmento’s YouTube description: Before Captain Marvel and Wonder Woman, there was another big female led film in Ghost In The Shell, starring MCU‘s Black Widow Scarlett Johansson. It didn’t go over so well, primarily because of one factor: narrative invisibility. In today’s episode of family friendly show Anatomy of a Failure, let’s take a deep dive into Ghost in the Shell and try to pinpoint the problems in invisibility in storytelling. It’s not a Netflix anime adaptation film, but still here we are.

Film Review: Ghost In the Shell (1995)

Also known as: Kôkaku Kidôtai (original Japanese title), Armored Riot Police, Shell Mobile Force (alternative titles)
Release Date: September 23rd, 1995 (Tokyo premiere)
Directed by: Mamoru Oshii
Written by: Kazunori Ito
Based on: Ghost In the Shell by Masamune Shirow
Music by: Kenji Kawai

Production I.G., Bandai Visual, Manga Entertainment, Shochiku, 82 Minutes

Review:

“There are countless ingredients that make up the human body and mind, like all the components that make up me as an individual with my own personality. Sure I have a face and voice to distinguish myself from others, but my thoughts and memories are unique only to me, and I carry a sense of my own destiny. Each of those things are just a small part of it. I collect information to use in my own way. All of that blends to create a mixture that forms me and gives rise to my conscience. I feel confined, only free to expand myself within boundaries.” – Major Motoko Kusanagi

Many consider Ghost In the Shell to be a masterpiece of the anime genre and style. I can’t really disagree with that, even though it’s not my favorite. That will probably always be Akira. However, this has a lot of similarities to Akira but it’s certainly not a clone of it, which is why it stands so strong on its own.

Like Akira this is a cyberpunk neo-noir that focuses on human experiments, high tech labs, lots of action and just a rich, cool looking futuristic world. But the stories are still very different.

While the plot focuses on a cyborg security agent that fights cyber related crime, the real meat and potatoes of the story is about questioning future technology and the morals dilemmas that come with its implementation.

In a way, Ghost In the Shell serves as both a warning regarding tech run amok, as well as being an examination of a person or cyborg’s rights in a world where physical bodies can be augmented with material owned and controlled by corporations.

The film itself is only 82 minutes, which may not seem like a lot of time to really delve into these complicated concepts and ideas but this picture covers a lot of ground fairly well. Ultimately, it leaves you wanting more and the story feels incomplete but luckily, even if it took awhile, there was a sequel and a television series that dug even deeper.

As a standalone anime film, my only gripe is the fact that this feels unfinished. It’s presentation and plot structure makes it come across like the first OVA in a series that didn’t progress beyond one episode.

However, the animation and the ambiance more than make up for the film’s one main flaw.

Ghost In the Shell is still one of the greatest works in the anime medium and I’m pretty sure future generations will continue to hold it in high regard.

Rating: 9/10
Pairs well with: its sequel and television spinoffs, as well as Akira and other cyberpunk anime.

Film Review: Ghost In the Shell (2017)

Release Date: March 16th, 2017 (Shinjuku premiere)
Directed by: Rupert Sanders
Written by: Jamie Moss, William Wheeler, Ehren Kruger
Based on: Ghost In The Shell by Masamune Shirow
Music by: Clint Mansell, Lorne Balfe
Cast: Scarlett Johansson, Michael Pitt, Pilou Asbaek, Takeshi Kitano, Chin Han, Juliette Binoche, Michael Wincott

Paramount Pictures, DreamWorks Pictures, Reliance Entertainment, Amblin Pictures, Arad Productions, 106 Minutes

Review:

Almost every single review I have seen of this film bitches about the whitewashing of its characters. To the point where the movie isn’t even discussed, it is just attacked by social justice warriors disguised as movie critics looking for anything to latch onto and rant about for 600-to-1000 words.

In all honesty, I don’t give a shit. American remakes of foreign films are typically full of famous Hollywood Americans. I don’t recall anyone bitching about the The Deaprted not featuring Chinese actors and it went on to win a bunch of Academy Awards and was the Picture of the Year.

When comparing The Deaprted to Ghost In The Shell, the context of each is different. The Departed was set in Boston, as opposed to Hong Kong like its source material Infernal AffairsGhost In The Shell is set primarily in Japan but I don’t recall the character of Major ever being specifically given a racial identity apart from a Japanese surname, as she is a brain set inside of a shell (or a cybernetic body). Besides, and a bit of a spoiler alert, she is shown to have been Japanese before her brain was put in the shell that looks like Scarlett Johansson. Although, in the film, her surname is changed to Killian from Kusanagi in the source material.

But I’m here to talk about the movie and not get fixated on the sociopolitical rhetoric it seems to be drumming up. Besides, at the end of the day, Hollywood has always been racist.

In regards to the content of Ghost In The Shell, the film actually turned out to be better than I anticipated. I thought that there was a lot more that could go wrong with this picture and that it was a risky move for something that didn’t really need to be made. I still don’t think that it needs to exist, as it isn’t great, but I did enjoy the 106 minute investment I made. Granted, I doubt I’ll ever watch it again.

First of all, the visuals are gorgeous and they did a fine job recreating the world of the manga and film in a live action format. The color palate was alluring, the cinematography and especially the lighting were superb and the costumes and sets were perfect.

Unfortunately, the visuals are the biggest positive of the film.

Scarlett Johansson was very dry and emotionless. I get that the part calls for that but she felt distant in the worst way possible and it was hard to connect to her. The only time you really feel anything, is when she discovers her mother and they meet for the first time.

Pilou Asbaek and Takeshi Kitano were both fabulous, though. Asbaek really became Batou and Kitano was a stellar choice to play Chief Daisuke Aramaki. Both men brought gravitas to their roles.

Michael Pitt was pretty good as well. His body movement and voice felt authentic, even if there were effects added in post production. Even though he is a cyborg like Major, his performance was much more human than Johansson’s.

Juliette Binoche was solid as Dr. Ouélet. She had a gentleness to her and even though you knew she was into some bad stuff, she was able to convey that she was a good person underneath and not once did I think she would turn her back on Major. She serves the story well and was a pivotal part in the film despite not having a lot of screen time.

The plot seemed to borrow from various parts of the overall Ghost In The Shell mythos. It has been awhile since I’ve seen the original anime and television series. I’ve also never read the manga. The gist of the story is there but it just isn’t that exciting and you never feel emotionally invested in it. The problem could be in that the film feels like a summary of events and not its own fleshed out tale. I’m not really sure where it could go, if there were a sequel in the future. I also feel that a sequel is as unnecessary as this film was, which did nothing to justify its existence.

Again, the ambiance of the picture was stunning eye candy but it isn’t anything that hasn’t been seen before and presented in a better way. Ultimately, it looks like an update of the visual style from 1982’s Blade Runner but we have an official sequel of that on the way later this year.

I’m not wholly against anime movies being made into live action blockbusters but they need to be treated with care and done in a way that can justify their existence. I’ve never been a fan of the idea of Akira becoming a movie with real actors. Ghost In The Shell just strengthens my argument against it.

While I am huge on the visual aspects of the films I watch, that element alone isn’t enough to make a great picture. Ghost In The Shell had enjoyable moments, where I thought it wouldn’t deliver in any way, but ultimately, it is a shell without the ghost. If anything, the visual razzle dazzle is there to distract from the lack of everything else this needed to work.

Rating: 6/10