Ghost in The Shell has been marred by the controversy surrounding its whitewashing since its release, and has suffered commercially because of it. George Jackson asks whether the film itself is deserving of such harsh criticism…
Since it’s release, many have heavily criticised the white-washing of the film, but – all social concerns aside – Ghost in the Shell really does deliver in a number of ways. The long-anticipated live action remake of Mamoru Oshii’s 1995 anime classic has been received with fandom on one side and outright scepticism on the other, those of the latter being prone to tut that it will ‘never be as good as the original’. I’ll beg to differ.
Perhaps the most crucial ingredient to the film’s success is its adherence to the cyberpunk genre. It’s set in a post-WWIII metropolis in the year 2029, where towering skyscrapers and animated neon signs are commonplace, and population density is at an all-time high. It is gritty and crime-ridden, with major corporations such as Hanka Robotics, creator of Johansson’s character, wielding immense power over the lives of everyday citizens. Such features are all integral to the workings of a great cyberpunk film.
‘It would appear that Johansson’s been typecast as the archetypal sci-fi/action heroine over the years’
Scarlett Johansson’s performance as Major Motoko Kusanagi, a cyborg law-enforcement officer, is certainly a commendable one. However, there are elements in her characterisation that are all too reminiscent of her portrayal of Black Widow in the Marvel universe, or even her role in the 2014 film, Lucy. It would appear that she’s been typecast as the archetypal sci-fi/action heroine over the years, and her performance in this production does not depart from this. This is not to say she fails to do her job; she merely delivers as would be expected.
For lovers of the original 1995 anime, the alternative plot twists may or may not appeal. The narrative as a whole is not supposed to mirror the original scene by scene, but we do see a great deal of overlap out of sequence. Despite any flaws in the casting or script, the film has its merits as a live action remake. It offers a vision of what could be, and ticks all the boxes necessary for a cyberpunk film on par with other classics of the genre, such as Blade Runner, Akira and The Matrix. We are ultimately left, as with so much cyberpunk, wondering what it means to be human in a world that is increasingly shaped by technology.
(Image courtesy of CJ Entertainment)