GHOST IN THE SHELL (2017) is a somewhat dystopian film set in a future in which humans routinely modify themselves with cybernetic enhancements. Major (Scarlett Johansson), an agent combining a human brain and software, represents the ultimate in merging human and machine. She works for Section 9, a secretive group designed to fight terrorism. The film is based on the classic manga and anime adaptations of the same name.
The film opens with a mysterious man named Kuze who is able to control anything using the Internet, and who appears interested in both Major and the corporation that created her. While chasing him down, Major continually yearns to learn more about her past, most of which was erased. As a result, she doesn’t feel connected to anything. She has a ghost (mind) in the shell (android body), but is she human? In the end, she learns her past is a lie, discovers her true past, and comes to terms with what she is.
It’s a visually faithful adaptation that for me lacked the magic of the original, but I wonder if that had to do with me seeing the anime first. The American version westernizes the story a bit, streamlining it while also taking out some of its more interesting philosophy, such as the quest for the soul. The beginning is a bore, the usual phoned-in superhero origin story nobody cares about. The ending is changed so that it ends in a predictable manner, including leaving the door open to a sequel, which is unlikely to happen as the film was considered a box office bomb. The best thing about this live action version is it provides a deeper connection between Major and Kuze. Otherwise, in between, there are some good action scenes.
The film was criticized for whitewashing, particularly the role of Major. They claimed Major in the anime is Asian, which was news to me. She looks White in the anime.
Despite my criticisms, it is a fun movie. I’d give is a solid B, maybe a B+.