Impressive in visuals yet lacking in personality, Ghost in the Shell is about as dreary and passionless as a blockbuster film can be.
There is much controversy surrounding Ghost in the Shell. To summarise, this adaptation of the ground breaking 1995 anime of the same name, cast a non-Asian actor in its lead role. Now, considering the actor in question is Scarlett Johansson, it really should be of no wonder why the highest grossing female action star working today was cast to lead a major tentpole movie.
No, Ghost in the Shell has a bigger problem: It’s just not that good of a film. Directed by Rupert Sanders (Snow White and the Huntsman), this potential tech-noir-action-classic lacks any form of excitement or charisma. Lethargic in pace (its 106 min feels much longer) and void of any stakes, the film clusters along with no feeling behind its motion, and is about as bland as a sci-fi thriller can be.
The film centres on The Major (Scarlett Johansson) a miraculous convergence of human brain with cyborg shell, who leads an advanced counter terrorism unit. When a mysterious hacker threatens to bring down the system, Major goes out all guns blazing in an attempt to stop him. Along the way she learns the truth about her previous, human life, leading to a conflict of identity and purpose.
Sanders reputation as a visualist in the mould of Ridley Scott is once again exemplified here. Ghost in the Shell is a stunning film to look at, taking that cyberpunk aesthetic to new heights with nods to the likes of Blade Runner, Minority Report and (or course) the anime original. Such incredible world building should be highly applauded, and hopefully Sanders will get more work as a result of it, as should have been done after Snow White and the Huntsman (yet let’s not get into the messy details of that one.)
No, the problem here is its script and Sander’s inability to inject any form of personality into it. While the casting of a bonafide movie star in Johansson was a wise move, the inability to surround her with talent that could add some flavour to their bland characters, or even create action scenes that at the very least could be described as “memorable”, is a frustratingly curious move during an era where sci-fi action genre pieces (Mad Max, Logan) have raised the bar in quality.
In the end, for a film that is constantly obsessed with the notion of identity and the soul, Ghost in the Shell is a film lacking personality and spirit.