Saturday, April 1, 2017

Movie Review: Ghost In The Shell

I have always been doubtful of western adaptations of anime franchises (remember "Dragon Ball Evolution"?  - gags.) So I really wasn't jumping off the fence with excitement when I first heard of that the 1995 groundbreaking "Ghost In The Shell" was going to get the big screen Hollywood treatment.

But when the first teaser trailers were released my faith in project was restored and I started looking forward seeing the film. That robot geisha walking in the well lit hall gave me goosebumps.

I'm glad to say that right after seeing the movie I found myself actually liking it more than I thought I would. I was overcome with emotions-yes! Feelings! Which is something that I was not expecting from a sci-fi, cyberpunk anime adaptation.

Rupert Sanders' homage to the original source material did not disappoint.

It is a stunning visual treat that can only be fully experienced on wide screen format.

The audience is transported to the distant future where the line between human and machine is lost. Where the human brain can be enclosed in the most advanced machinery, becoming the ultimate weapon. Humans can get "upgrades" by enhancing different parts of their bodies. Like, say getting your liver upgraded so that 'it's last call at the bar every night' and you don't need to suffer the effects of alcohol in an otherwise 'real' liver and Hanka Robotics is the world's leading developer in augmentative technology. The company works on developing a secret project of creating a "shell" or a mechanical body, where they can integrate a human brain "ghost" instead of using an AI. Mira Killian, the survivor of a terrorist attack is chosen. She is then placed in Section 9, an anti-terrorist group.

Scarlett Johansson transforms as Major Mira Killian, she becomes the Ghost in the shell.  You would think that this role is very similar to her Black Widow character but she's really different and you can sympathize with her as she struggles to find her humanity in  a world dependent on technology and machinery.

Things heat up when a rogue mechanical geisha kills a Hanka executive and Mira and her fellow Team 9 operative Batou, set out to find the hacker responsible for the attack. What follows is an unexpected look into Mira's strange past as she tries to come into terms with her own 'ghosts'. Little does she know that her current mission will get her to the answers that she seeks.

Praise should be given to the stunning visuals which make up the film.

Every scene is an urban masterpiece, a vivid picture of what the future might be, moving images the size of buildings, each demanding of your time and attention.

The city, to which Mira and the characters live in is reminiscent of Hong Kong, yet a Hong Kong many years from now. The city becomes alive in such a way that you can almost "smell" the sidewalk or the knee-length stagnant water, which becomes the scenes for a straight from the anime duel.

The plot is simple enough with a few curve balls (that made me cry!) which I believe is justified given the many things happening in the background, and just so you can enjoy the images on screen. There are a few talking points in there, questions on each of our existence, what makes us unique and even the battle against terrorists. Does the end really justify  the means? 

My only nitpick is a slow first act, which you just have to get over to get to the juicy part. If you are not used to the genre or are not familiar with the source material, you may have a hard time.

If you are willing to dig in and think about it but if you are in the movie for the mecha action then you won't be disappointed either. Props to the team who brought antagonist Kuze to life, his impressive character design (like he came out of a Final Fantasy game) had me staring every time he was on screen, I am also commending the performance of Micheal Pitt, completing the recipe for the villain.

8/10, despite casting controversies (seriously guys, just enjoy the movie) which is also cleverly integrated into the plot.  I would say that the film is the best western anime adaptation to date. It is really a homage to the source material and the music in the end credits just brought back so much nostalgia.

Ghost in the Shell is now showing.

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