Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Ghost in the Shell

By Sati. Tuesday, April 4, 2017 , , , , , , , , ,
 (spoilers !!!)

The studio executives these days are becoming progressively dumber. I think we can all agree that the lead role in this movie went to Scarlett Johansson because the studio thought it needed star power to make the movie successful. Unless international box office saves it, Ghost in the Shell is a bomb. Scarlett, who is largely the most profitable actress on the planet due to her involvement in Marvel cinematic universe (where she really doesn't do much) is not the person who people go to see in the movies. I really, really love it that's it's Melissa McCarthy who is probably the biggest draw out of female actresses right now.

So the one reason they got Scarlett to do the movie backfired on them. This whole whitewashing controversy I was not behind at all, I understand how studios work and they made a reasonable assumption that they needed the star to make a successful movie. The film has actually a very diverse cast so other than the casting of Scarlett you cannot accuse the rest of the casting choices of whitewashing. However there is something so spectacularly dumb in the movie I cannot move past it.
When the Major's origin story is revealed we find out she actually used to be a Japanese woman. The company killed her and put her mind in a robotic body. There are so many things wrong with this. Was studio execs too ignorant or just didn't care that this is just handling the SJWs screaming 'whitewashing' the ammo?! There was absolutely no reason that the human form of the Major had to be Asian. By doing this, they literally put the whole whitewashing scandal in front of a viewer forcing the audience to watch the scene where the Japanese mother of a girl is talking to Caucasian chick who has her Japanese daughter's brain. It's just...unbelievably awkward.

Other than this the film is in a tricky place from the start. It's hard to make the audience care for AI. You have a child robot in AI and you have hosts in Westworld where you see them being abused, you care immediately about them and want them to have their revenge or at least happiness. But here Major is almost without emotion, she is a killing machine. The script awkwardly tries to add depth to her but it's too little and it's very clumsily done, such as a scene where major hires a prostitute and touches her face. We find out her human self was a rebel but it's never properly explored, we never get to know this character and it's very difficult to care about what she does and what happens to her.
Johansson is not a very strong actress. She is talented and she occasionally does very well, like in Match Point, but she doesn't have charisma and intensity of someone like Charlize Theron who can sell any role. Johansson attempts to do something here even if that something is awkward looking military walk, but her efforts aren't enough to make this a compelling watch.

The rest of the cast varies from forgettable to good. Michael Pitt shows up as the main villain and he doesn't really do much and is handed a completely incomprehensible plot of 'human network' that would allow him to 'live on'. Juliette Binoche makes the most out of the part of a doctor who is taking care of Major. But it's Pilou Asbaek who really steals the show as Major's colleague and ally Batou. He is so much fun to watch and actually manages to give his scenes some energy. There is also a subplot where Batou is feeding stray dogs which was a good idea - it immediately makes you care for the character. I actually did care about Batou and the dogs so much more than all the others in the movie combined.
Where the film really manages to score some points it's the terrific look and ambiance of it. The multicultural, digitally enhanced setting really brings Blade Runner to mind while the terrific score by Clint Mansell (which doesn't even have a release date set!) - easily the best thing about the movie - creates dense, fascinating atmosphere. The action scenes are cool and the robotic geisha is such a cool and creepy design but the director Rupert Sanders yet again proves how inept he is at his job - the jarring mixture of slow motion and fast cuts rarely works and the action sequences could have been so much better if they were handled by someone more capable.

Overall the film is far from being a disaster and with a run time under 2 hours it's worth seeing for the music and visuals alone. I haven't seen the original anime so I cannot speak just how superior it is to 2017 movie but the script could have been much better here and the ideas and characters definitely deserved far more exploration than they received here.

Ghost in the Shell (2017, USA, 107 min)
Plot: In the near future, Major is the first of her kind: A human saved from a terrible crash, who is cyber-enhanced to be a perfect soldier devoted to stopping the world's most dangerous criminals.
Director: Rupert Sanders
Writers: Masamune Shirow (based on the comic 'The Ghost in the Shell'), Jamie Moss, William Wheeler and Ehren Kruger (screenplay)
Stars: Scarlett Johansson, Pilou Asbæk, Takeshi Kitano

12 comments:

  1. Nice review, Sati. I was pretty much right there with you in giving this movie a solid "meh" rating as well at first. But then I revisited the original anime yesterday, which really provided context in highlighting just how bad this movie actually was. Though on the contrary, it turns out the original holds up incredibly well, and I probably appreciate it more now than I did when I last saw it about 15ish years back. So I'd definitely recommend checking that one out at some point if you're interested, and see if you don't like that one more. At a brisk 80 minutes in length, they tackle the material and themes in such an intelligent and thought provoking manner and manage to say so much more about it than this significantly dumbed down version manages to do in its meandering 2+ hour runtime.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh man, that sounds like they really messed up here. 80 minutes run time is encouraging, I'm sure I'll eventually go around to seeing it. It's really a shame that the movie wasn't better considering they had so many talented people there, it really needed a different writer and director

      Delete
  2. I think the concerns about white washing were valid. I get how studios work too, but I think part of the reason this movie is failing is because most people don't want to support it because of Johansson's casting. They should've taken the risk.

    It's a shame to hear Michael Pitt doesn't do jack. He's a very talented actor and he hasn't been in much lately.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yeah Pitt is close to being utterly wasted here, but in the writers' defense it doesn't look like he was even trying

      Delete
  3. I wanted to see this because of Scarlett. It's a shame it didn't do well. If it's available for rental or it's on TV. I'll see it out of loyalty to her. After all, I did have the unfortunate of seeing North in the theaters which is one of the worst films ever made and definitely one of the worst films I had ever seen.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Never heard about North so I guess it's really bad :) Scarlett did OK here, she really tried to do a good job

      Delete
  4. I like this film and scarlett johansson worked on this on by hard

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Scarlett was good but the movie really could have been much better

      Delete
  5. I thought the visuals were great and Pitt's villain looked amazing, the glitches he had felt so robotic and if Major would have felt more human, the contradiction between them two would have served as a great plot device.

    I agree about Pilou Asbaek, he was great.. I kept thinking where I knew him from and realized he was in A War which is one of those rare European movies I've seen. He reminds me Joshua Jackson so much, they could easily play brothers.

    Overall, I think I disliked the movie even less than you did. I had a miserable time in the cinema with it.. it was the latest screening as well so I was tired, and expected some energy from the movie but there wasn't any. Disappointed.. not to mention the white washing issue you mentioned. Horrid.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yeah I was really tired after seeing it. Had to watch Real Steel instead of Les Mis after it because I was just drained.

      Delete
  6. Great review. I'm glad I made the decision to skip this one even though I adore ScarJo as an actress. My main issue was the whitewashing of the main character. I'm a huge Ghost in the Shell fan. From all the research I've seen on casting there are only a few major actors that effect box office sales, so the producers should have taken the risk IMO.

    But I think the biggest problem (excluding the casting) with this film was Rupert Sanders. He's just not a good director.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Sanders was a gigantic red flag from the start. But really, the script is truly at fault here, they could have done something but everything was kinda half-assed and 'safe' even if they had some good ideas here. You cannot make a good sci-fi without amazing execution and/or engaging script and this had none of the two

      Delete