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 I’ll summarize as:
Zombie kids rebel against a disorganized police force and an evil businessman.
This summary, however, might make the movie sound better than it was. This movie wasn’t only a huge disappointment, it made me feel ill similarly to how I felt in November. I felt the theater wondering how the producers were fine with taking an intelligent, well-loved collection of stories and making into a work that (as far as I can tell) could only appeal to fans of mindless action.
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 even 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.
- While it looks like a mashup of cyberpunk tropes, it become a copy of copies that can replace none of the originals. Nothing in the setting surprised me.
- Technology and culture presented as far-future at times appeared outdated.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. 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.
The praise I can give this movie:
- most of the actors did a good job,
- the writers pulled together elements from previous versions with their own twist in the second half, 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, and all of the closeups of Scar-Jo provided welcome distractions from the story.
*For a relatively brief overview of the GitS franchise:
Have you seen the movie? What did you think?