Ghost in the Shell
review Bobby Blakey
Easily one of the most popular anime properties is Ghost of the Shell. It started out as a seinen manga in 1989 before being immortalized in the hit 1995 anime film of the same name. For years there have been talks of a live action film, but when they announced that Scarlett Johansson was cast in the lead it was met with mixed results. Now the film is finally being uploaded into cinemas co-starring Pilou Asbaek, Michael Wincott, Michael Pitt, Juliette Binoche and the always awesome ‘Beat’ Takeshi Kitano, but does it do the franchise justice or will it be a program with too many glitches?
Ghost in the Shell follows cyborg police woman The Major and her task force Section 9 who thwart cyber criminals and hackers. Now they must face a new enemy who will stop at nothing to sabotage Hanka Robotic's artificial intelligence technology. After recently re-watching the 1995 anime I was interested to see how many of the same visual elements would be able to successfully translate onto the big screen and it did not disappoint. Sure there are some pacing issues here and there, but as a whole I was pleasantly surprised to how well this film worked. For the hardcore fans this film does stray away from the original story a bit in what looks like an attempt to create a bigger universe, but for me it was nothing that really affected the overall experience.
Much like the animated feature, the visuals of the city itself are amazing. They have perfectly captured the style and detail of this futuristic world giving you so much to take in it almost causes sensory overload in the best way possible. There are so many moments that are direct sequences from the anime that will no doubt have the fans smiling from ear to ear. I was impressed how well the looks of the characters translated into real life that could have easily fell flat. It is no surprise Johansson does a great job with the action in the film, but her look really translated well. Some will find the explanation to her not being Asian too simplistic, but it does in fact make sense and works for the story. Asbaek was excellent as Batou capturing not only the style and presence of the character, but had the look down to perfection. The real standout for me though was Takashi which comes as little surprise. He just oozes cool in every role and when he steps in the room with a gun you instantly know he is going to use it and you can’t help but smile when he does.
Some of the changes made to the story weren’t really all that necessary and are clearly just part of the Western influence, but I found it an interesting direction that they can flesh out should this kick off a new cinematic franchise. As someone who does love the original, but not considered a hardcore fan I still found myself really loving this film as a whole. It had the vibe I wanted and some fun action and amazing visual effects that took me right into that world I enjoyed back in 1995. Should this spin into more films I do hope they are able to step up the overall quality of the action even more and really dive in for a deeper story.
In addition to the film this release also includes numerous featurettes that take you further behind bringing this iconic anime to life. Grab your copy of Ghost in the Shell when it hits 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray and DVD on July 25th from Paramount Home Entertainment.