In the near future, Major is the first of her kind: a human who is cyber-enhanced to be a perfect soldier devoted to stopping the world’s most dangerous criminals. When terrorism reaches a new level that includes the ability to hack into people’s minds and control them, Major is uniquely qualified to stop it. As she prepares to face a new enemy, Major discovers that her life was stolen instead of saved. Now, she will stop at nothing to recover her past while punishing those who did this to her.
The theme of Ghost In The Shell is just as relevant as it was in 1995 when the original film came out. Terrorism, technology, hacking, government control and abuse are all relevant topics. Perhaps thats what makes this film so interesting. Unlike a lot hollywood films which focus on big climates and flashy story plots, Ghost In The Shell is more straight forward. This is about a human mind in a cybernetic world. How the Major got there and who is controlling her, and what it means to be human are the ever pending questions. The big question in the film isn’t what dominates your thoughts afterwards. It is the subtle questions that are asked stemming from that larger question.
When you move to live action from an anime, you lose some of the cultural and cult-like feel that the original anime film gave you. This is especially clear when comparing the technology of the time when the film was made now versus then. In the original you had garbage men going from phone to phone using old school dial in and viruses to hack the system. In the new version, it was all done instantly. Just small things that were adjusted for updated times.
One of the more grounding elements of the story that keep you in that world is the question that every person in that world is struggling with, be it the Major or the girl standing on the street corner: What does it mean to be human?
The Visual Effects / World Building
Visuals and world building are just as important as the story itself. Without them, we would find ourselves pulled out of that world. We would not feel any of the immersion we should. The team at Weta Workshop were behind the practical effects and visuals used in the film. One of the most iconic scenes from the original anime was the opening shelling scenes for Majors body.
This was one of the most challenging scenes for Weta. It took over 1,400 3D-printed pieces to make the entire shell. The use of practical visuals here made it all the more realistic and surpass even the original anime sequence.
Anime versus Live Action
It is inevitable that changes to the story will occur when adapting an anime to live action. In fact, historically speaking that has been a disaster for most hollywood adaptions of an anime in the past. However for Ghost In The Shell, it was about as close to perfect as we have ever seen. The vast majority of each iconic moment from the original film were found in the live action version. And as mentioned before due to the improved visual effects technology we have, along with Weta, some of those scenes were even greater than the original. The one that comes to mind for me was the Major trying to disarm the spider tank and ripping her arms apart in the process.
Now that being said, it isn’t perfect. I feel the changing of the story to put Major and our villain as orphan children taken by the government and experimented on took away some of the mystery and motivation from the Major. I always felt her motivation in the original was to stop terrorism, but in the film it was more focused on unlocking her past versus fighting the corruption, politics and terrorism. That is not to say if they did a sequel they couldn’t make that work. Now that she knows everything she can move forward in the world like she was in the original.
There is a ton of up and coming talent in this film if you know where to look. Major’s partner, Batou, is played by Pilou Asbæk. He is far from new to TV and film but many may not know him. Most recently you will have seen him on Game of Thrones as Euron Greyjoy. His level headedness makes for a great partnership with Major. Plus they give the character a fun quirk of having a pension for stray dogs, which he is diligent about feeding.
Before the film was ever released, there was a ton of controversy surrounding the casting of Scarlett Johansson as the Major. Hollywood has a long track record of casting white actors or actresses in roles that are otherwise Asian in the source material. The original creator has come out to say he was okay with the casting choices. The writers also came up with a way to address that, indirectly, with how Mira learned her true identity as Motoko and that the shell is just that a shell. However, none of that erases the fact that any number of great actresses of Asian heritage could have played in this role. I am far from an expert on this topic but I encourage people to continue this conversation overall.
The Art Of Ghost In The Shell
Going beyond and behind the film, the book “The Art Of Ghost In The Shell” written by David Cohen explores makeup, practical effects and using Wellington, New Zealand. The immense amount of work that Weta went through to bring the world alive is amazing. The book published by Insight Editions, provides a detailed look at all the behind the scenes work that went into making Ghost In The Shell. You get to explore the makeup work for each of the iconic scenes, and how practical prosthetics were used in place of CGI to create many of those scenes. We also learn how Wellington was turned into futuristic Hong Kong.
The book published by Insight Editions and licensed from Paramount Pictures is available on Amazon.com now. If you are a fan of the world of Ghost In The Shell or you enjoy all the magic that the Weta team does, this books is a great edition to your collection. Insight Editions sent us a review copy of the book to review.
I broke one of my cardinal rules of going and seeing a film based on a previously released manga, anime or book. I watched the original Ghost in the Shell film before seeing the new one. I felt as an anime fan it was important to see the source material first in this case and see how well they adapted the material out of anime and into live action.
Despite the casting controversy and the story changes, Ghost In The Shell is the best live action adaption of an anime to date. This futuristic cyberpunk world has never felt more relevant then it does today. This film is sure to become a cult classic that will either inspire future sequels or bring a new generation of fans to anime that would otherwise not have. We give Ghost In The Shell 4/5 stars.