Baltimore and Kaiser Review… GHOST in the SHELL (live action)
Overview/Opening Thoughts/Knowledge of the IP
KAISER: I know I’ve seen the Ghost in the Shell anime at some point in my life, but it never imprinted on my mind like titles such as Akira and Ninja Scroll did. If anything, the PS1 game (one of my fav games on the system) is the biggest impression I have of the IP, and a bit from the more recent Stand Alone Complex: First Assault Online game I’ve put a few hours into. So, going into the new big budget Scar-Jo lead Hollywood blockbuster I didn’t bring with me many expectations other than hoping for some great Spider-Tank action.
All in all, the more I think about it as I write this, the more I really enjoyed it. AND, I got to enjoy it with fellow Total Geek, Baltimore! So, did I get the Spider-Tank action I was hoping for? Well, read on my friend, read on!
BALTIMORE: I didn’t know much about Ghost in the Shell going into the movie. I somehow sort of missed the big craze when it was blowing up years ago, and just thought I’d get around to it. Well, cut to now and I still haven’t seen the source material. I did read and experience the whitewashing concern that plague this and other properties. But I came into the movie with judgment aside and hoped to see something exciting and entertaining.
KAISER: I must admit, the movie kinda had me at hello when I saw Beat Takeshi’s name pop up in the opening scrawl. I had no idea he was in this! It’d been years since I’ve had the pleasure of seeing him on the big screen, not since I caught Brother in an art house cinema in San Diego way back when. No surprise, he was his usual stoic self as Aramaki, head of Section 9. Was also surprised to see Juliet Binoche’s name pop up as well. Been awhile since I’ve seen her too.
But of course, the star of the movie was the visuals, err I mean Scarlett Johansson. Controversy aside, her performance as a Japanese girl trapped in a white American girl robot is serviceable. Actually, that kind of works as a meta analogy to everything if you think about it…. Unfortunately, those on the team that are not Scar-Jo’s Major, except for a couple cool scenes with Batou and Aramaki, are just there. This is a shame and given the films slower pace it could have worked in some character building scenes that would have benefited the film and it’s actors a lot.
BALTIMORE: I thought the acting was good, and I believed the given circumstances that the movie sets up at the beginning. I do have to bring up the whitewashing debacle and say that while I like Scarlett Johansson, I do think taking on a role that was canonically Asian does a disservice to the showing equal representation in media. The way the producers get by using Scarlett and Michael Pitt is clever but sad that they needed to use white, American to get the movie done. The actors did a good job, but I left with a bad taste in my mouth because I would have rather seen accurate representation. Another small conceit that bothered me is having one actor only speak Japanese but everyone around him speaks English. I get two characters starting off in a foreign language and then changing over to English as the audience gets to understand them, but happens here is just too distracting.
KAISER: While it’s another “what makes us human” type of storyline it is good and well paced. Again, I appreciate the slower pace of the film that lets moments saturate over the audience.
BALTIMORE: I liked the story very much and was engaged and entertained. Neat idea and compelling drama.
KAISER: The slower pace of the movie allowed me to take in the spectacle of it all. Sometimes it felt like the movie was saying “look, look at all this money we spent!” but I didn’t mind as I’m a sucker for visuals and appreciated the ability to really look at a scene without them all whizzing by at 200 miles per hour.
Like a lot of CG heavy movies, there are moments where movement feels slightly off during the more acrobatic fight scenes. Thematically it can be explained away with “well her body is all machine so she can perform feats others cannot”, but you still notice it. It’s never “Luke on the Rancor bad” tho! When it works, and it does more often than not, it makes for some great action scenes.
From sets, to costuming, lighting, FX, SFX, they all blend together to present a feast for the eyes. It’s a shame more people are not experiencing it on the big screen (at least in the US, seems to be performing just fine worldwide). On the drive home Baltimore and I were discussing the movie and I agree that there were a couple of times where the visuals confused what was going on in a scene, well one in particular, but I won’t specify. Trying to be spoiler free here!
BALTIMORE: The film is visually stunning and pretty amazing. I do have difficulties sometimes following the action when there is a lot of CGI and lots of quick cuts, but it was fun and engaging.
KAISER: Nothing really that stood out for me here until the credits kicked in. If you loved the theme of the anime, close your eyes and let it wash over you.
BALTIMORE: Nothing to add here.
KAISER: If nothing else, this movie is one more example of why Scar-Jo’s Black Widow deserves a stand-alone movie. There are some standout scenes, masterfully crafted visuals, and a good balance of action to plotting. Aside from the first couple of trailers I avoided as much press as I could but did notice that a number of bigger sites were not liking it.
BALTIMORE: Make a Black Widow movie already!!! Give us what we want! Oh, and I liked Ghost in the Shell. Seeing the movie made me want to watch the anime and supporting properties. I haven’t had much of an anime upbringing, so I need to make up for it. I would definitely see this again, and highly suggest that Marvel execs realize Scarlett’s potential to carry a solo film.
Ghost in the Shell Release Date: March 31st, 2017 Written By: Based on the comic “The Ghost in the Shell” written by Shirow Masamune, Screenplay by: Jamie Moss, William Wheeler, Ehren Kruger Directed By: Rupert Sanders Starring: Scarlett Johansson, Pilou Asbæk, “Beat” Takeshi Kitano & Juliette Binoche