Thursday, April 13, 2017

Ghost in the Machine

Mamoru Oshii’s animated feature ‘Ghost in the Shell’ is considered to be essential viewing and one of the defining anime films of all time.  Not having read Masamune Shirow’s 1989 manga pre-dating it, this 1995 movie was my first entry into the futuristic cyberpunk universe depicted in the popular anime franchise which also includes ‘GitS: Innocence,’ ‘GitS: Stand Alone Complex,’ ‘GitS Stand Alone Complex: Solid State Society,’ ‘GitS S.A.C. 2nd GIG,’ ‘GitS: Arise’ and ‘GitS: The Rising’ (aka ‘The New Movie’).  So when I heard that GitS is being made into a live action movie starring Scarlett Johansson, it became one of my must-see movies of 2017.
ScarJo (in a somewhat stiff performance, but that's hardly her fault) takes on the role of GitS’s main protagonist, Major Mira Killian aka Motoko Kusanagi, the cybernetically enhanced team leader of the highly secretive “Public Security Section 9,” a shadowy black-ops department of the Japanese government.  When a Hanka Robotics meeting was hit by unknown assailants and a hacked killer Geisha robot (cool!), the Major and her team are assigned to go after the mastermind behind the attack, an elusive and mysterious cyber-criminal puppet-master known as Kuze.  As Killian closes in on Kuze, she comes to the increasing realization that things are not as she’s led to believe and begins to question her very own identity.
Mixing the visual style of ‘Blade Runner’ with the hyper-kinetic choreography of ‘The Matrix,’ GitS has a lot going for it in the eye-candy department.  While I can overlook the “white-washing” in casting ScarJo as a Japanese heroine and switching to a “nude” Thermoptic bodysuit, the screenplay is unoriginal and little more than a recycled neo-noir Philip K. Dick-sian conspiracy plot in which the protagonist turns against her masters along the lines of ‘Minority Report’ and ‘Total Recall.’ Nonetheless, fans of GitS should find just enough to recommend here (Spider Tank, cool!)  despite its obvious flaws.

Grade: B+

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