Film Review: Black Hole (2007)

Release Date: 2007 (Internet)
Directed by: Rupert Sanders
Written by: Rupert Sanders, Milo Ross
Based on: Black Hole by Charles Burns
Cast: Chris Marquette, Whitney Able, Diane Gaeta, Noel Fisher, Nate Mooney

11 Minutes

Review:

This was a short film done by Rupert Sanders, who later directed Snow White and the Huntsman and the live action Ghost In the Shell. This was made as a sort of demo to show how he would adapt Charles Burns’ cult classic comic book, Black Hole.

Sanders released this on his website in 2007 but it didn’t even seem to pick up much steam or to be distributed around the web until 2010 or so. I didn’t know of its existence and I was a pretty big fan of the comic.

It’s not a very good adaptation and this only reflects a very small portion of what the story is. It crams a lot of things into a small space but it also does that so subtly that this feels more like a David Lynch mindfuck sequence than something with any sort of narrative or point.

The cinematography is school book Fincher, which everyone and their mother was employing at the time.

The body horror elements feel very Cronenberg and being that I already named three iconic directors, you can probably see that this sort of just borrows from several more accomplished talents and lacks a voice of its own.

I’m not try to shit on what Rupert Sanders did here but I’ve got to call it like I see it and as a fan of the original work, this doesn’t even hit the right notes, tonally or aesthetically.

All that being said, I don’t even know if I want a legitimate live action adaptation of this story. It works wonderful for the original medium that it was intended and I’m kind of sick of everything needing to be adapted into a live action film in order to somehow be legitimized within the framework modern culture.

I’d rather directors come up with new ideas for the medium of film. This is not a new idea nor is it a new approach to filmmaking. Everything here is borrowed and just because you have four really good ingredients, that doesn’t guarantee that you’re going to have a really good casserole.

Rating: 5.25/10
Pairs well with: late ’90s to early ’00s teen horror.

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