Ghost in the Shell
1 Palm Tree out of 4
by Manuel Reynoso
Directed by Rupert Sanders and written by Jamie Moss, William Wheeler and Ehren Kruger, based on the Japanese manga by Masamune Shirow. Starring Scarlett Johansson, Takeshi Kitano, Michael Pitt, Pilou Asbæk, Chin Han and Juliette Binoche.
It’s very difficult for me to judge this film in a vacuum when it’s tied to one of the most prolific animated films of all time. While it is important to judge a film on its own merits, I do believe direct comparisons to the original film are still worth making. But I can confidently say, whether we compare the two films or not, Ghost in the Shell (2017) was not a good movie. Poor writing do an ample job of tearing this film apart before any comparisons to the original even need to be made.
When it comes to creating a film based on a pre-existing property, the first decision made has to be how faithful do we stay to the original. Normally I see two paths the creators take: follow the source material as faithfully as you can, or create an almost entirely new piece. Both paths have their strengths and weakness, but Ghost in the Shell (2017) decides to go straight down the middle and is absolutely worst off for it. We’re left with something that feels like a Frankenstein’s monster of a film as some scenes are faithful down to the shots, and others are entirely original. The transitions from scenes based on original material to the scenes created for this film was jarring, to the point where they felt like entirely different movies spliced together. These scenes did not mesh well and took it originals views on philosophy down a different, and much weaker path.
The philosophical themes discussed in the original film was what really gave the original piece it’s significance. Dialogue discussing the idea of what it means to be human and how easily we can blur the lines between life and simulation was what made it stand out. While the writers of this film clearly grasped that concept, it’s execution was sloppy and ham-fisted. The constant spoon-feeding of anything vaguely philosophical gave me the impression the writers had no confidence in the audience’s ability to understand these concepts. Seeing Scarlett Johansson having an existential crisis every other scene not only got old quick, but never went as deep as I would have wanted either.
And the poor writing unfortunately does not end there. Multiple times do the writers commit one of the cardinal sins of writing. Too many times characters are being thrusted into impossible situations, with no way for them to get out, yet by forces unseen make it out unscathed. This doesn’t just come off as bad writing, but lazy. Which honestly comes across as even more offensive than it just being written poorly. And the tragedy in all this was production wise, the movie was beautiful. The city skylines are bleak and dystopian but contrasted with giant neon advertisements, towering higher than the buildings themselves. There is some substance here, but not enough to even justify cheap seats on a tuesday night.
I can’t help consider that perhaps in some alternate world, this wasn’t a Ghost in the Shell movie but an entirely original film. The scenes not based in the Ghost in the Shell universe were stronger than the scenes that were, and there was enough original content to create something entirely new on top of that. But instead we are left with a poorly written script calling itself Ghost in the Shell and pretending to delve into philosophy. There cannot possibly be a universe out there where I can recommend this film, when the original 1995 version still holds up as one of the most defining works of anime. Do yourself a favor and skip the 2017 remake and dive straight into the original. PG13 1h46m