* * C
I didn’t get a chance to see this film in the theater, partly because it was gone so quickly from them, which is never a good sign. This weekend, I had the chance to watch it on pay-per-view. I’ve seen the anime version, so I knew a lot about the world of the film and the main characters. I was hoping that it would be as good as Blade Runner. Instead, I found it more like Johnny Mnemonic.
The Major (Scarlett “Black Widow” Johansson) is a cyborg whose human body was destroyed. Hanaka Robotics encased her brain in a robot body, and she became an agent in the Japanese government’s Section 9 anti-terrorist unit. When someone starts murdering Hanaka’s scientists, the Major and her team must stop the killer.
Johansson’s performance is good, as are the supporting characters Batou (Pilou Asbæk) and Aramaki (Takeshi Kitano). The visuals are beautiful, and the vision of the future is impressive. The central motif (what makes a person human?) is the same one that allowed Blade Runner to transcend its science fiction shoot ’em up formula. Unfortunately, the Ghost in the Shell never quite succeeds in doing so.
One thing I disliked about the film was it’s overuse of special effects. The Major’s hallucinations are obviously computer generated, which detracts from her humanity. Similarly, the idea that her thoughts can be manipulated like computer data makes her less than human. Another weakness was the film’s secondary villain, who is a typical ruthless corporate mogul. All in all, I’d have to say the anime was better.