GHOST IN THE SHELL
GHOST IN THE SHELL
Running time: 107 minutes approx
Major - Scarlett Johannson
Batou - Pilou Asbaek
Aramaki - Takeshi Kitano
Dr Ouelet - Juliette Binoche
Directed by Rupert Sanders
Written by Jamie Moss, William Wheeler, Ehren Kruger, Shirow Masamune
A cyborg police officer with a fully cybernetic body, but a human brain, starts suffering flashbacks to a previous life and struggling with what it means to be human when most of you isn't.
No, this isn't ROBOCOP, it's the live action version of much-loved manga/anime GHOST IN THE SHELL. The fact that the summary sounds so much like ROBOCOP shows just how far time has gone on since the storylines in this film were considered cutting edge in terms of science fiction blockbuster thinking. Pretty much everything that happens in this storyline has been done before and soemtimes several times, which leaves us only with how well it's done.
We know that we're in serious trouble right from the start with a patient being rushed through hospital corridors. Every single shot is so devoid of invention that the sequence might have been hacked wholesale from dozens of other movies. Fortunately, we jump a year ahead and Major is now a cyborg killing machine who sets about taking on a bunch of killers and geisha robots in a bravura sequence that nevertheless owes a lot to THE MATRIX and does not exceed anything in that film. Worse, very little of the following action sequences come close to that first one, though Major taking on a bunch of gangsters whilst handcuffed to a dancing pole at least shows some invention. The final showdown with a conveniently-located spider tank(!) feels almost perfunctory.
We should also be in safe hands with Scarlett Johannson, who has shown that she can do this sort of action schtick in her sleep, but she is dangerously close to doing just that. Admittedly, she is a human in a cyborg body, but that is no excuse for a performance that conveys so little emotion for so much of the time. She also adopts a strange walk, as though her brain can't quite control the cyborg body correctly and yet the fight scenes are almost balletic. These are in stark contrast. Major aside, the rest of the cast are sketched in to do what is required to push the plot along, but very little else. Only the encounter with a grieving mother shows any true emotion at all, a serious lack in a story that is all about the importance of human emotion.
The cityscapes are remarkable and show what CGI can do when used to realise someone's singular vision, but they also get overused a bit to fill in for what should have been exciting action and an involving emotional story. Though it's never boring enough to risk sending its audience to sleep, it fails to keep the attention from wandering.
Sadly, the film is as empty as the shell into which Major's body is placed.