Ghost in the Shell Review by James Mandell
Midway through Ghost in the Shell, there’s a scene when two women are conversing and one asks the other “What are you?” For good reason. We’re about a century into the future and have reached the synchronicity tipping point, blending Asimov’s man and robot concept into a more “perfect” entity.
Scarlett Johansson plays Major, a killing machine in a literally skintight jumpsuit, fashioned via mechanics and brain transplant. Based on the cult manga and anime story, she awakens on an operating table as the movie opens, getting encouragement to take her first breath from the doc (Juliette Binoche) in charge of her construction team.
By then, following the stunning images in the opening credits, we know we’re in for something special. If you read me, you know I’m not that much for superheroes with super powers and magic abilities that require insistent comic book mentality to enjoy. But this ain’t one o’ those. It’s an engrossing Blade Runner reboot 2-, no make that 3.0 (has it really been 35 years?), staged within the spectacular backdrop of a megalopolis bursting with nighttime lights and skyscraper holograms that insist on your attention.
Our screening was in Imax 3D, a dicey choice as often as not, but this time it delivered, adding the kind of Avatar-like magic that manages to keep you in varying levels of awe. From the production and set design to the costumes and robotic CG depictions, the story – which is pretty good – pulsates waves of imagery at your peepers that weave a moody fixation on all that is dark and foreboding in this steady march we’re making, towards a landscape littered with AI, implants, intrusion and insanity.
What’s a former human to do? The story unfolds continual levels of power and greed, while our hero attempts to make sense of her artificial existence. There’s also a bit of real life controversy about the casting, questioning the starring role going to an caucasian, when it’s the story of a Japanese woman. But Johansson seems a perfect fit for her cool beauty and delivery, key to creating box office performance, as she competes for attention with the production itself. See it for the artistry and the sheer power of its visual craft.