You know that old “Where’s the beef?” commercial for Wendy’s? Perfect analogy for this movie here, I feel. I’m not going to totally destroy the thing; there are some things about it that I admire, but I’ll get to that later on. I’m a bad-news-first kind of guy, so I’ll say that piece straight-out.
I walked out of this movie and sat down in the lobby of my theatre to write, thinking that there wasn’t a whole lot to write about. The plot is rushed, at times—not enough actual movie to even call it feature-length. I’m assuming footage was cut from the penultimate draft—either to get the PG-13 rating, or just to make the hour-and-forty run-time (I would’ve welcomed a two-hour-plus film, or even an R-rated one, if it expounded upon the story). The beginning is extremely built-up, the middle—if you want to call it such—is a choppy and confusing tease, at best, and all makes for a hasty, roughshod ending that leaves the audience (which consisted only of myself, mind)…blinking. It’s set up for a sequel, but a film shouldn’t need that—or an extended-cut DVD—to feel like a complete narrative.
Scarlett Johansson as Major doesn’t deliver an Oscar-worthy performance here, but she’s nevertheless entertaining to watch. She did film this in-between two bigger Marvel pictures, however—which, no doubt, had her greater attention—so…I can’t blame her for following the money. That said, her delivery of lines is sloggish, even mopey, and she carries herself awkwardly when moving about on-set. Her character sometimes moves straight through an otherwise-clean shot. Other characters, as well—even her allies, let alone the villain(s)—are flat and under-developed; I started to nod off during one slower scene, which never happens to me…
With all that out in the open, there are some things I liked about this film. The action scenes are hyper-realistic and heavily-CG’d, which lends well to the far-flung dystopia that the filmmakers bring to life. Internal framing accentuates the loneliness that Major feels, being the “first of her kind”, and is done beautifully. The city (nameless; a mix of Western and Eastern culture) is vibrant and alive, even down to the panhandling gutter-rats and varied enhanced individuals that Major passes on the street. It’s as believable a future as what The Matrix envisions, with the line between Man and machine blurred to the point of indiscernibility.
The score of the film is captivating, as well. Apparently, a lot of it—especially the bit during the end credits, according to IMDb—is made up of remixes of the original 1995 anime’s soundtrack. It’s very cyberpunk and helps set the mood during slower scenes, while heightening the experience of the more action-packed ones. I’ll have to take a closer listen to it on YouTube, next time I sit down to write.
Overall, I’d give Ghost in the Shell a ***/** final ‘Risk Assessment. Having slept on it overnight, I don’t feel that that’s me being too over-generous; it’s an entertaining film, there just doesn’t feel like enough happening on-screen (outside of the action sequences) to merit a full-length feature. I’ve never seen the original 1995 anime, but I’ll check it out now—if for nothing more than a side-by-side.
If anything, this film got me more excited for Blade Runner 2049, later this fall.
Next review: Going in Style (2017)