Magazine article Screen International

'Ghost in the Shell': Review

Magazine article Screen International

'Ghost in the Shell': Review

Article excerpt

Scarlett Johansson plays an all-silicone machine with a human brain in the latest adaptation of Masamune Shirow's modern manga classic

Dir: Rupert Sanders. US, 2017, 106 mins

So-called "fake news" may irk the current resident of the White House but authentic fake news - an entire identity - is at the slightly sterile heart of Ghost In The Shell, whose fetching heroine (played by Scarlett Johansson) is told a striking lie about who and what she is. Self-selecting audiences will probably be won over by the mood, wanton firepower and top-notch visuals on display in this lavish live-action version of manga artist Masamune Shirow's modern classic. A "ghost" inhabits the no-nonsense female protagonist but mature viewers, scanning the busy horizon for more than a ghost of a plot, may find the proceedings more exhausting than rewarding.

Rupert Sanders' opulent opus starts its international rollout on March 29 in France, with Paramount handling major territories. Shirow's original manga has given rise to two animated films, two animated TV series, video games and other iterations.. The questions it raised in 1989 about the eventual melding of human and machine - talk about identity theft! - are as pertinent as ever, maybe more so. But even though there's an enormous amount to look at and digest, little of this film is truly memorable or thought-provoking.

In Ghost's aggressively urban future, the line between human and machine has blurred. One can hardly blame cyborgs for not coming across like flesh and blood characters but it's not easy to care what happens to any of the protagonists since they so rarely generate moments of human emotion. There's action galore, however, to compensate and viewers anywhere along the gender-identity spectrum are unlikely to object to the sight of Scarlett Johansson's incredibly shapely and seemingly nude form diving offskyscrapers or kicking asses of the future.

The story gets underway with a "cerebral salvage." When Mira (Johansson) awakes, gasping for breath on the operating slab, semi-kindly Dr. Ouelet (Juliette Binoche, adequate) tells her she's the first of her kind. Mira is a refugee who almost drowned when terrorists sank the boat she was on with her parents. They couldn't save her body - hence the nifty (and exceptionally curvaceous) human-seeming robotic body - but they successfully deposited her brain into an artificial skull. Mira can take alleged comfort in the fact that her soul - a.k.a. her "ghost" - lives on in this shiny new semi-indestructible package.

A year later, Mira, now Major Mira Killian and addressed as Major, is a key member of Section 9, a crime-fighting unit from the Ministry of Defence whose other members are humans, "enhanced" humans or cyborgs. …

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