Japanese is not everyone s cup of (green) tea .Many of the characters are removed from reality with wide eyed vacant stares it’s bit like having a meeting with our Editor (‘You’re fired!- Ed). The original anime version of Ghost in the Shell was an impressive epic ,though in reality only 83minutes long, that’s now been made into a live action epic starring Scarlett Johansson as Major, a hi tech robot with the brain of a immigrant victim from a terrible accident. We see all this in the opening title sequence that sets the stylistic and visual tone for what is to come. This kind of robotic makeover is all normal in a society where people digitally upgrade themselves much like those who use cosmetic surgery today. Major, under the instruction of Aramaki (Takeshi Kitano), works with her own team including Batou (Pilou Asbaek) who loses his eyes in a spectacular explosion and ends up with blacked out eyes that make him look like he’s auditioning to join the 80’s ska band Madness. The team dive into action in a stunning set piece where Major defends a head honcho at a cybernetics firm who were responsible for her own body’s technology. But it’s all part of a conspiracy to control the IT network of the government itself and its her human memory than causes glitches in side her robot form. It’s the ghost in her shell.
Much has been made of the ‘whitewashing’ of what is a classic piece of Japanese anime and the film’s only connection to its oriental origins is the always great Takeshi Kitano who has toned down his role here for a 12a certificate. For those who may not know Kitano is a big Japanese TV star appearing in daft TV shows whereas his films over the past decades such as Zatoichi, Boiling Point and Hana-Bi are outrageously violent. The UK equivalent would Noel Edmonds play Robocop. Kitano is very good here but inevitably all eyes are on Scarlett Johansson and understandably so when she frequently appears as a nipple-less naked robot in fetishsised latex form but is perfectly cast with her sombre delivery seemingly bought from her SIRI soundalike voiceover role from Spike Jonze’s, ‘Her’. She has to contend with the overwhelming visuals from director Rupert Sanders whose command of visuals is as good if not better at times than Ridley Scott because the cityscapes here are as sumptuous as Blade Runner’s adding to the whole films nightmarish presentation of a digital apocalypse. It’s undoubtedly the most visual stunning sci-fi film since Blade Runner.
At two hours it’s a little overlong but the appeal of Johansson in skin tight latex should be enough to attract the dads but the core audience here is really fans of the original anime film whose air of mystery is slightly lost in its live action version where if anything the role is written more as a burgeoning superhero in the making and she’s already been there with her Black Widow. Until we get that as a standalone film this will do nicely.
Here’s the trailer…….