Hollywood has a reputation for taking a well-loved franchise, digesting it, and vomiting out a movie that their confused producers think will look close enough to the original to appease audiences.
They did it again with the latest Ghost in the Shell movie.
In this particular take on one of the most influential fiction franchises* to come out of any country, Hollywood made a movie whose storyline that fits within an unfamiliar tagline:
Zombie kids rebel against a disorganized police force and an evil businessman.
My summary might make the movie sound better than it was.
The movie wasn’t only a huge disappointment, it produced a sick feeling that brought back memories of November. I left the theater wondering how the producers could take an philosophical, world-rich, well-loved collection of stories to produce a work that might only appeal to fans of senseless action.
The praise I can give this movie:
- the writers pulled together elements from previous versions with their own twist in the second half,
- most of the actors did a good job, and
- the directing allowed me to focus on the prettier shots. In particular, Michael Pitt as a broken cyborg was lovely enough that I cringed when his character complained of being ugly. All of the closeups of Scar-Jo provided welcome distractions from the story.
In comparison, here were a few of the big issues with the live action version of Ghost in the Shell (GitS).
- The violence necessary in previous versions of GitS* went unjustified and glorified by the emotionless action scenes. Even as characters talked about the importance of retaining their humanity, they demonstrated no concern for other humans outside of they could be used to serve individual goals. They’d already lost their empathy, but none of the characters noticed.
- While it looks like a mashup of cyberpunk tropes, it became a copy of copies that can replace none of the originals. Nothing in the setting surprised me.
- Technology and culture presented as far-future appeared outdated. The text introduction read like something out of the 1980s.
- The story failed to take advantage of the medium.
- We’re supposed to care about memories that are never shown. What happened? A few flashes of Major’s family could have established an emotional connection.
- The lack of people in public places is never explained, is counter to the crowded city in the animated versions, and contributed to the sense that humanity is absent in the movie. A seconds-long explanation could have taken the form of clips of average-looking people hooked up to their homes.
- The settings too often looked fake–especially the vehicles, which looked like moving stage props. Again, the absence of people in the background contributed to this. So did the inexplicably clean home interiors.
- Characters, who are supposed to be a part of an elite policing team, repeatedly made rash decisions that unnecessarily endanger their lives. Section 9 often feels disjointed, unprofessional, and dangerous to the general public, especially in light of Major’s tendency to disobey orders without any negative consequences.
*For a relatively brief overview of the GitS franchise:
Have you seen the movie? What did you think?