Thursday 14 September 2017

Ghost in the Shell ★★★☆☆

Long before anime became easily accessible and predominantly about angsty high schoolers with kawaii mascot characters to sell merch of, we had an era of grim future dystopias, corruption, barbaric civilisations and Cybercrime. While I've come to accept that I'll never own Cyber city, Fist of the North Star, Angel Cop or Battle Angel Alita on DVD/Blu Ray, the likes of Akira and Ghost in the Shell (GitS) get a cleaned up re-released every few years for anniversaries or when someone else acquires the rights.... (just hope that it's never Pioneer).

Imagine a six-year-old trying to explain the plot of Akira or GitS to another six-year-old. That was me at school. The other kids would talk about their favourite Disney films; "Aladdin did a thing and then the magic carpet goes whoosh".
But Disney never quite did anything for me... "Well, The Major dives from the top of a skyscraper, activates her optic camouflage, shoots her way in through a giant window and blows a dude's head up!" To blank looks followed by: "....Does she sing?"

Sadly, I'm not reviewing one of the most important and acclaimed (animated) films in cinema history, I'm doing it's watered-down, live-action Americanisation.
First off, Weta studio did an amazing job visually. From the aerial shots of the cityscape, with all the holographic adverts polluting the skyline, to the dingy alleyways and back streets that look provocatively sketchy. Everything is how you'd imagine the real world location of the fictional Japanese city of Niihama Prefecture, New Port City to be. It was nice that everything wasn't just CGI, Robots (like the geisha-bots taken from the second animated film) had real working versions built as props and costumes are also designed with this level of care to detail.

Given the right people and budget, these films can be made adequately. It's a shame then, after getting all the visuals right, that what should be a movie heavy on the plot about self-identity and cartesian dualism has been substituted for Matrix-esque action scenes. Ironic as half of the ideas in the Matrix are taken from GitS (the other half being from Neuromancer). The plot of the original has been replaced by, a more linear, Robocop with body issues (more so the remake). Major, now being the first of her kind to have a full body swap, questions if she's still human or a Replicant... wrong film…

Certain members of Section 9 are also missing and replaced with needless actors.
None of the changes add any depth to the overall story and aren't really necessary and if anything take away from (choosing to ignore that she’s been renamed Major Mira Killian) Major Motoko Kusanagi’s entire backstory of being way older than she appears thanks to her prosthetic cyborg body, starting Section 9 with Aramaki and recruiting old war pals. All this just diminishes the world created by Masamune Shirow, a bit, in general.

The movie is at its strongest when it's taking its material directly from the '95 anime. Often shot for shot.
It's strange to me that they didn't do this for the duration of the whole movie and leave longtime fans little to grumble over. 

Overall it's not a bad movie, taken on its own merits, just a weak adaptation that misses a few of the key points of its source material. If you're oblivious to the original manga and the 1995 anime, then GitS will likely come off as an okay sci-fi action film. With the recent Blu-ray release of the 1995 Ghost in the Shell being so cheap, do yourself a favour and grab that instead. And if you can find them, Stand Alone Complex and 2nd Gig (Ignore Arise).
Extra star for visuals.

Bry Wyatt

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