If you’re really honest with yourself, it was inevitable that the 1995 Japanese animated classic Ghost In The Shell was going to be re-made by the Hollywood machine. The only thing that’s surprising, is that it’s taken them 22 years to get there.
The 1995 version named the year as 2029, in this new, updated, Ghost we are just in the ‘near future’. It’s a future where humans can upgrade themselves with various machine parts to make themselves better, new eyes, new arms, you name it. The ultimate aim is to transplant a human mind into a completely robotic body.
This is where Major comes in. Played by Scarlett Johansson (Avengers: Age of Ultron, Sing) she is told that she was saved from a terrible crash that killed both her parents, her body didn’t survive, but her brain and soul, her ghost, did, and they successfully transplanted it into a robot body. She is quickly put to work in the mysterious Section 9, fighting the world’s most dangerous criminals.
But all is not as it seems and a mysterious man known as Kuze, played by Michael Pitt (best known as Jimmy Darmody from Boardwalk Empire), is taking out scientists involved in the making of Major, he’s hacking left, right and centre to get what he wants.
If you haven’t seen the original, you may wonder what all the fuss has been about with this remake. Well the original Ghost In The Shell is simply stunning. It’s arguably the first-time animation had been used to create a feature length film that wasn’t aimed at kids. It had a proper story, characters with depth, it’s almost a work of art more than it’s a film.
That’s not to say it isn’t a little hard to get on with for some people. I get that. The story can be hard to follow at times, it’s minimalist to say the least and some of it is just a little ‘out there’. However, if you can get on with it, you love it, and having Hollywood touch it is something you would shudder about.
But a remake we have and writers Jamie Moss (Street Kings), William Wheeler (Queen of Katwe, Ray Donovan) and Ehren Kruger (The Brothers Grimm, Transformers: Dark of the Moon) have been put to the task with Rupert Sanders (Snow White and the Huntsman, Greatness Awaits (Short)) behind the camera.
The first thing you have to mention is the CGI, the costumes and the Geisha masks from Weta. All are nothing short of stunning, nay, beautiful. It’s reminiscent of Blade Runner for the city and if you’ve seen the recent Westworld (or the opening credits at least) you’ll see where they (Westworld) got the idea of creating the robots from. Johannson is regularly shown with body parts removed, inner-workings exposed, it’s all beautifully handled.
For me the character that really aligned this version with the original is Batou, played brilliantly by Pilou Asbaek (The Great Wall, Game of Thrones). The way he handles himself, his outfits, his eyes, it’s all brilliantly done and Asbaek is first rate as Batou. Johannson handles herself well, the way she sits, the way she walks, it’s not quite human, it’s quite stiff and doll-like at times, it’s a nice touch.
Takeshi Kitano (Johnny Mnemonic, Battle Royale) plays Aramaki, the leader of Section 9 with Juliette Binoche (Godzilla, Chocolat) (great to see Binoche in a major film again) as Dr. Ouelet, the woman who put Major together. The final piece of the puzzle is Cutter, played by Peter Ferdinando (High-Rise, Snow White and the Huntsman), who is the man responsible for the program that created Major.
Inevitably there are things that have been added, some names have been changed but, at the same time, the classic shots have been kept. We keep the spider tank at the end, we keep the invisible fight in the shallow water and more. Whilst what’s around them may have been altered, it’s great to see that these scenes where left ‘as is’.
Another really nice touch from the producers is that for the Japanese dub of the film, the three original cast members of the main characters have supplied the voices.
Visually, Ghost In The Shell is breath-taking and the 3D adds to it, it works, it’s worth seeing it in 3D. As for IMAX, you see it at the beginning when we glide across the buildings, it makes your legs go funny, but after that, it’s used sparingly though it’s hard to say the shots of this digitally enhanced city, isn’t enhanced by being on such a large screen.
I can get why you may not like this version of Ghost In The Shell, I truly can, but I loved it. I’d have loved it more if they’d kept the story the same, I don’t quite get why the changes where necessary, but still. It’s a nice homage and we’ll wait to see the others, right? Right? Come on, you think they’re going to leave it here when there are so many animated version already?