Sunday, April 2, 2017

Ghost in the Shell Review

If a movie isn't good... does that make it bad?

I'm the target demographic for this film. I'm an American that has not seen the original Ghost in the Shell anime.

Even though it's one of the most important anime films of all time, right up there with Akira and Spirited Away in my opinion, I just never had the urge to watch the movie. It was always one of those movies where I know of it through cultural osmosis, but I couldn't ever say I've actually seen it. So here I am, as an American that's aware of the franchise, but unaware of the actual beats and intricacies of the plot.

Cut to two hours later where I'm leaving the theatre extremely conflicted. I know that Ghost in the Shell wasn't exactly good, it had a lot of flaws that really prevented me from enjoying it, bad I wouldn't really call it bad. Hell, I wouldn't really call it disappointing either. Our soulless. Or forced. It's a word that I can't really think of, and I've been trying for the better part of two days trying to think of it.

Ghost in the Shell is a Hollywood adaptation of an anime feature film set in the near future where people augment their bodies with cybernetic enhancements. Cyberpunk 101. Then there's the Major, played by Scarlett Johansson, who is a human brain in a completely cyborg body. She works for a special crime unit called Section 9, and her character here is pretty much Black Widow if she was a robot. She has to track down a hacker named Kuze, who is targeting members of a cybernetic corporation that tasks the Major to track down, and you already know the plot of this movie because you've seen this plot a million times before.

Now I can't comment about the quality of the original for obvious reasons, but all I could think about while watching this version is why wasn't it working. This wasn't a thought I just had at the end of the movie, I kept wondering to myself why wasn't I enjoying this. The best way I can describe it is that it's an ouruboros effect.

So the film is basically a character study of the Major. That's cool, and the original was pretty similar too from what I could gather. But in this version, the Major isn't interesting. She's played very mechanically and soullessly by Scarlett Johansson. That's fine for the performance, but that exposes how flawed the writing is when it's delivered so plainly. You will hear the words "ghost" and "shell" more than a ghost hunting crew visiting an abandoned Shell gas station, which just screams of laziness. But the bad writing exposes the flaws of the story because of how poorly it's handled. Plot points are dropped on us without any prior context and character motivations are thrown aside for action scenes. And when the plot fails, because it's a character study on the Major, it makes her performance look poor, and the cycle repeats itself.

I almost want to get a whole theatre full of anime fans together, watch this movie, then dissect why it isn't working. I as one man am not capable of untangle the Gordian that is this movie's mediocrity.

One thing that I cannot deny with Ghost in the Shell is that it looks fantastic. Every shot is gorgeous, the CGI actually looks great, and this is a world that I want to see more of. Everything about this world is just a marvel to look at, and when the movie decides to just stop what it's doing just to show an extended sequence of the Major being created, floating in water, or a bunch of robot Geisha's simply walking around, I'm hooked. In fact, if the movie just decided to go on mute and tell its story completely through its visuals, I would have fallen in love with this movie.

Bu it didn't and it doesn't. This is going to be a much shorter review because there isn't anything to say. Ghost in the Shell is a confusing little movie, and trying to think about why it exactly doesn't work will get me nowhere. I know that I usually have a gag of cutting reviews where I have nothing to say short by showing off a random video or extended gag, but I actually wanted to discuss that fact that I don't know what to do with this movie. I have tried and racked my brain, but I just couldn't figure it out.

So... it's bad... I guess...?

Yeah, it's bad.... I think.


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