Community Review: Ghost In The Shell

Image: Youtube

After much debate, derision and scepticism, Ghost in the Shell finally came to Australian theatres. And the reception was ... well, interesting.

I'm not hugely surprised that the general reaction to Ghost in the Shell has been, well, underwhelming. Cecilia and Mikey had low expectations going in. The fact that ScarJo kicked things off without the sense of presence or confidence that the Major had in the manga, movies and TV series, certainly didn't help.

That's not a spoiler, if you're wondering.

Perhaps the biggest criticism that stuck out for me was the disconnect between how Ghost in the Shell treated world-building in the original material, versus Hollywood's approach. Cecilia pointed out that the original manga and anime did a good job of just presenting things as they were, rather than building them up to be a special event, or laying it all out to the viewer beforehand via exposition.

Maybe the latter is helpful sometimes, especially if the series is completely foreign to you. And maybe it's also necessary, when you can animate and draw things to illustrate movement, emotions, characters and scenes in a way that might not be possible or practical in a live-action setting.

Something worthy of praise, not that anyone expected otherwise, is obviously the design. Weta Workshop are freaks, in the best possible sense of the word:

Image: Tested

But one of the harshest criticisms came from someone the comments section, courtesy of arnchise. I'll quote it here:

As someone who is meh about Ghost in the Shell, I thought it was alright. But just like in the anime, I found Major boring. I always find the supporting characters more interesting than Major.

When your lead is boring, the rest of the movie has to do an awful lot of work to make up for it. Surprisingly, most critics don't think it does.

Have you seen Ghost in the Shell yet? If so, what did you think?


    Haven't seen it, doubt I will. Should probably see the source material first lol.

    I was hoping it would be real good though, just as a middle finger to everyone who complained about the casting. Oh well.

      Nice review.

        Let me rephrase then: I was hoping it would be critically well received, just as a middle finger etc.


      Instead, the complainers about the casting (of which I am one) are now feeling vindicated, even though the reason for the film's failure isn't solely its casting.

    Ghost in the Shit more like it.

    What was up with ScarJo's walk. The entire movie was a joke. Even how they told us Togusa didn't like cybernetics.

    I would give it a solid 7/10.

    "We didn't get another Avatar or Dragon Ball"

    Its amazing what you can do when you have people that both understand and enjoy the source material working on an adaption.

    Visually speaking the movie is stunning, the scenes do an awesome job of recreating the atmosphere of the anime. Alot of the little details felt superb, like watching Togusa draw his revolver.

    Even if certain scenes were changed and the larger philosophical questions weren't asked, this movie still obliterated all of my (admittedly) low expections.

    I can like the movie for being different to what's come before, but still call it out for its obvious and glaring mis-steps can't I?

    Taking this to spoiler talk. If you haven't seen it, you don't need to @ me.

    The movie is about a pair of actually-quite-young Japanese people who are murdered and put into literal Ken and Barbie bodies. Except Ken got chewed up by the family dog. It was also the plot of the worst Bond movie of all time. It becomes cultural appropriation when it is an actual plot point.

    I loved loved loved maybe 75% of it, all told. The other 25% was what for most people soured them on the whole thing. I had a gripe near the end when Aramaki was inserted into the final showdown for no damn reason, and he riffs on the 'consent' stuff. She doesn't say her name. She says 'My name is Major.' That's basic stuff that I'm sorry, you can't forgive or defend amongst all the other stuff you're either forgiving or defending here.

    The white-washing is a huge issue, because it's a part of the story. It's a poorly-thought out and explained plot point about not one, but two characters! We are taught to hate the antagonist when he offs the smoking cybernetic scientist, then we are expected to pity him during the tattoo scene. And then the SPIDER TANK scene tries and fails to call back to the original scene from the anime, including the antagonist in the most clumsiest way. He was easily the worst part of the movie.

    Seriously, if the 'Motoko' stuff was completely taken out, we'd be seeing a lot less actual noise. Broken clocks being right twice a day and all that. This movie will cop the criticism it deserves, because that's judging it own its merits. I liked Johanssen's take on the Major anyway, like Superman/etc the character is an adaptation and because it's a film she has to be a gestalt of multiple authors/ideas to be able to be brought into the medium.

    I saw it last week and I'm already having trouble remembering it. It's forgettable but not terrible if that helps ;)

      Basically how I felt. Was occupied and enjoyed it while I was watching it, but the whole movie slipped from my memory as soon as I left the cinema.

      Weird that they didn't go all-in for fanboys OR for the general public. We're left with something that doesn't know what it wants to be, with a studio that's gunshy because of the amount of negative publicity surrounding its release.

      It's more of a missed opportunity than a film.

    It's passable, but it didn't work for me

    first is a plot spoiler, and it's the primary twist to the whole movie. suffice to say it just makes the casting argument all the more relevant. as well as that, having watched all of Gits anime,
    it just feels wierd to see another take on Major's origin when we already got it in 2nd Gig.
    I mean they even had to explain how Batou got his eye... like huh?

    the second is the visual style and I posted this in Cecilia and Mike's article. it's hard for me to believe the world when every set piece is a recognizable Hong Kong location. the world of Gits the movie to me is just basically Hong Kong with holograms stuck on it. not a huge problem for people who's only been to HK once or twice I suppose

    It has beautiful cinematography, probably one of the prettiest movies i have seen this year
    The sound was also beautiful and felt like it was a solid fit
    hell i didn't even hate scar jo as teh Major, it wasn't a super great performance but it was okay...

    but god damn this was a boring movie, the pacing was terrible and it felt heartless i wonder if the film makers are aware of the irony of making a heartless adaptation.

    I had high hopes but oh well. hollywood gotta get dat cash.

    "When your lead is boring, the rest of the movie has to do an awful lot of work to make up for it."

    That was my major concern. Haven't seen the movie yet but Scarjo isn't the most emotional actress there is. I haven't actually seen her portray any character that couldn't be portrayed by a mannequin. But as the commentor pointed out, Major was kinda boring in the original movie/series as well. So I guess Scarjo is a good pick. But it was never the character that made GitS interesting. It was the world and the subtle tales the world tells.

    I will probably hold off until it reaches Bluray.

      I don't get that. In the movies, maybe, but in the SAC series she did show a lot of personality. Major was often wry/sarcastic and sometimes mischievous, and she had clear emotional responses to the world around her, although she did control it for the sake of professionalism.

    Johansson is a great actress, but it's hard to make shit happen when your direction is clearly "act like a robot" and the writing is complete shit that makes you say the title of the movie over and over again to beat into the audience's skulls that the robot has a soul.

    I enjoyed the film and think it's getting a lot more flack than it deserves.

    It's beautifully shot and the visual style was fantastic.

    I think it lets itself down in the last third or quarter and the ending seemed a little abrupt.


    Amazing movie, it was a perfect rendition of the setting: dark, gritty, cybernetic, metropolis cyberpunk world. Perfect. The story was as expected, slightly simplified, compared to the anime, but it is catering to a mainstream audience. I loved the batau and the Major. Scarlett played her so well. Anyone dissing the movie probably never loved the anime series in the first place so piss off you hentai freak dorks. The movie was just as cool as the series. Naysayers just hate everything, and I hate you. You are the reason there won't be a second movie, you stupid dickfaces.

      Thank god there won't be a second movie

    I sat through it thinking "eh" the whole time. I wonder if it was edited to buggery to fit into the smaller timeframe: they introduced fairly weighty ideas but THEN SOZLOL SETPIECES. I wonder if there's a longer cut due for release on home media. It felt really choppy in its theatrical form. Odd pacing, and too many flyovers.

    Seeing Beat Takeshi play Beat Takeshi (especially with improbable hair) is always pretty great, though.

    I liked the soundtrack. Mansell does '70s synth? Yes please.

    Honestly I liked it quite a lot. It's not perfect but what's there is pretty damn good. Johansen for all the controversy really does the role justice and so did Asbæk as Batou. In many ways it's a wonderfully faithful film and I didn't have any problem with the changes they made from the original movie.
    My only real problem with the movie was there was a couple of establishing shots early on that just kind of felt superfluous and there's one scene towards the end that feels both weirdly contrived and slows the movie down way too hard.
    But those are minor gripes, I came out of the movie really liking it.

    I'm not a huge anime fan but I watched the 1995 anime in preparation for the film. As someone who wasn't particularly precious about the source material, I didn't hate it as much as some. However the white-washing issue, although explained, I still think is a pretty big problem. It would just be nice to see this inherently Japanese story told with Japanese actors.

    Scarlett can be pretty hit-and-miss as an actor - and while I agree her performance in GITS was pretty underwhelming, I do think a lot of that comes down to direction as other here have said. She has an intense robotic walk and takes on an emotionless affectation despite her mind still being entirely human. Almost as though she's trying to play 'jaded' because of the job but just takes it way too far?

    There's also an element of the script being overly obvious because there is a need for a big-budget film like this to communicate things in an accessible way to a broad audience. I can accept that to a point - but I can also see how it will make many people cringe. The explanation of what a 'ghost' represents is reiterated over and over.

    The film I believe is still definitely worth seeing however for the world design alone. For anyone who has a love of fantasy, escapism, sci-fi and, hell - art... I honestly just drank in every scene. There's some beautiful cinematography at work and I wanted desperately to step into that world. It took it well beyond the world depicted in the anime which is what you hope for in a live-action interpretation.

    Further to that, I'm glad I saw the anime film before hand to see which of the iconic shots were re-created in the film.

    I know a lot of people will be angry that some of these are practically taken shot-for-shot from the anime - but I loved it. I nudged my friend whenever one of these moments popped up. The shot of her by the window... the scene of the two dudes in the truck and the following fight scene in the water. The night diving scene with the boat... beautiful.
    I also thought the casting of Pilou Asbæk as Batou was perfect - and I thought it was great that we got to see the process of him getting his cybernetic eyes.

    Anyway. I tend to be a bit 'yeah but it's sci-fi!' about films like this which means I kinda love them even when they don't live up to expectations but I do think it's worth seeing on a big screen.

    Last edited 03/04/17 4:34 pm

    Six out of ten. Some of the scenes and the script linked to certain scenes are just plain bad.

    It was a wonderful adaptation of the Anime!

    Watched it last night and loved everything about the film. Visual effects of the robotics and the sound track were just right.

    I don't think it can be set on equal footing as the 1995 cult classic, but it can be a very cool tool to introduce mainstream audiences to the wonder of anime. I really hope it inspires them to find the Anime version themselves and that it opens them up to the worlds that we all enjoy already.

    Watch it in the cinema and just enjoy it for what it is, an adaptation! I know for sure that the Manga that the Anime movie is based on wasn't made Shot-for-shot and the manga can delve way too deep into the philosophical concepts of what makes humans human.

    There's the original late-80s manga, the 1995 movie, the SAC TV series, a couple more manga, and various others, too. I haven't seen all of these, but one thing is consistent - while they have the same basic characters and setup, the tone and execution are quite different. E.g. the original manga had moments of comedy and Batou was a bit of a goof, but that didn't jive with what Mamoru Oshii was wanting when he did the 1995 movie, so he took the comedic elements out.

    (I preferred the original manga over the 95 movie anyway.)

    This is a long way of saying that I went into the movie expecting yet another adaptation that would have similar characters and story elements, but would ultimately be doing its own thing. Which is of course exactly what I got. Overall I didn't mind it.

    I liked the slow pans around the city. I saw Korean billboards, I saw Japanese billboards, I saw Chinese billboards, I saw all sorts. Each time there was a slow pan I was looking intently at the picture to try and figure out what new things I could see.

    The movie shows just how terrifying it could be if someone could hack your brain. The hacker could insert memories here, remove memories there, make you think your life is something completely different, and make you do things that aren't you. How do you fight against that? Are you even you after all that?

    There were some bits that I found annoyingly Hoolywoodised, though. Such as the oh-so-typical treatment of the bad guys. Or the fact that they needed bad guys in the first place. And the oh-so-typical post-mortem one liners. And the Hollywoodisation of the final encounter. This is what I liked least about the movie.

    I didn't mind ScarJo, and could headcanon the weird things away. I'll have to put my thoughts in a spoiler.

    The movie says it a couple of times: It's not your memories that define you, it's what you do. I eyerolled at that, because your memories define your experiences and so of course will have a huge impact on your actions and what you think of yourself. But that was, of course, the basic idea behind Major Mira/Motoko. Even without her memories of her previous life, even with all the programming and conditioning she went through, she was still impulsive and wild, like she was in her previous life. "It's what you do that defines you" - so when Mum Kusanagi and Cat Kusanagi saw the Major, what she did and how she acted felt immediately familiar. Realistic? Hard to tell. But I could see what they were trying to do and I was OK with it.

    The movie was probably trying too hard to be clever with Major Mira/Motoko, and it didn't entirely work because good lord the bad guys were done so badly, and that pulled the rest of the movie down.

    Overall: Not amazing, but decent. Has a lot of annoying Hollywood-isation, especially around the bad guys.

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