You’ll settle cosily into your seat for Rupert Sanders’ Ghost In The Shell expecting a 21st Century sci-fi spectacle, but before you even hit the 20 minute mark you’ll be suddenly hit by a serious case of cinematic Deja Vu. Flashes of Blade Runner and The Matrix will appear before you and by the time you tick past the 40 minute mark you’ll be having visions of Total Recall, Minority Report and RoboCop. That’s an impressive roster of sci-fi classics and they help make Ghost In The Shell enjoyable viewing – but Sanders’ Scarlett Johansson starrer isn’t a patch on the aforementioned flicks.
Johansson plays Major, a human brain in a robotic body. She’s on an elite team tracking down Michael Pitt’s mysterious cyber terrorist (Stephen Hawking meets Max Headroom meets terrible CGI). Suddenly Major feels that all is not what it seems but maybe Juliette Binoche’s doctor has the answers. Yep – she’s got a serious case of the Philip K. Dicks.
In case you didn’t read my opening, Ghost In The Shell doesn’t deliver anything new to the sci-fi genre and the film relies heavily on a lot of better films. I’m not familiar with Masamune Shirow’s graphic novel source material but I don’t think Sanders has created a new world here. Sure, it looks pretty but I’d rather watch the aforementioned pics for at least the visuals were fresh first time around. This sounds harsh, but hey – I had enjoyed Sanders’ much maligned Snow White And The Huntsman – and that starred charisma vacuum Kristen Stewart.
Following Lucy and The Avengers, Scarlett Johansson cements her action heroine credentials here and she can sell the ‘I don’t know who I am’ plot-line. Having said that, Arnold Schwarzenegger sold that role like a pro in Total Recall and he wasn’t an Academy Award nominated actor. Johansson works hard, but she could have been replaced by a million other latex clad actresses.
An eclectic cast adds to the film’s mixed future style and it only deepens the confusion to where this Manga adaptation takes place. White-washing hit Ghost In The Shell during its cinematic release but the sense of place is a major (pun intended) factor. The Matrix was a manga-tinged film set in the US, but Sanders’ film is firmly set in Asia – with three white leads and an Asian supporting cast. If you want to embrace that kind of thing then do it – like when Oliver Stone cast Colin Farrell as Alexander and then surrounded him with actors with Irish accents. Have faith in your convictions, Rupert, have faith.
Ghost In The Shell isn’t great, but maybe it’ll make you want to watch a lot of the other aforementioned films. It has some solid moments, but the budget really seemed to run out during the last 20 minutes (some bad CGI!). In a way, maybe God bless Rupert Sanders for wanting to make the type of films which made him want to be a director. If he’d held his nerve he might have actually directed Blade Runner 2049…actually…maybe not.