I had a strange sense of apprehension when heading into the viewing of Ghost In The Shell, but not because of the controversy that surrounded the casting of Scarlett Johansson, but probably because of my sheer enjoyment from the trailers.
This futuristic world that was shown was wonderfully fascinating, seeing behemoths of advertising, but also the glow of the colours that emanated from the screen. Scarlett Johansson’s casting was met with an abundance of controversy as she was cast in what was previously a predominately Asian role, but these voices grew quieter as the release crept closer.
This colourful glow in the trailers, was immediately evident in the opening scenes as vibrantly red Hanka Robotics staff carry Scarlett Johansson to an operating room to remove the brain, as her body slowly dies. Her brain is implanted in a skeleton composed solely of cybernetics, and then taken through the final stages of completing then ‘Shell’. This also marked a huge step forward in robotic technology for Hanka.
This body becomes first to have a conscious human mind controlling it, but she is immediately placed into an Anti-terrorist unit with the Department of Defence. I had no prior knowledge about Ghost In The Shell aside from it’s original work being a popular manga series, and had an Anime feature back in 1995. But, with the nature of this story, the question of ‘has technology gone too far?’, was always going to be at the forefront, especially as the line between human and robotics becomes increasingly blurred in this future world.
But instead of solely relying on the story to win over the audiences, Rupert Sanders bathes Ghost In The Shell in beautiful colours of this crafted futuristic world as Major (Scarlett Johansson) dives from atop a building and dramatically crashes through a window to save civilians in a beautifully shot sequence, mixed gorgeously with appropriate slow-motion.
Sanders does show a deft touch in immersing you into this world, which is also helped by electro-synth soundtrack that really adds to this futuristic feeling landscape. What really does help, and gets the audience involved is the direction of the characters and Sanders displays an excellent awareness of the screen presence for each of the characters involved.
Major’s right hand man, Batou (Pilou Asbaek) and the antagonist Kuze (Michael Pitt) all deliver solid performances giving Ghost In The Shell that extra intensity that it required, but significantly backed up by the ever-brilliant Takeshi Kitano as the not-usual emotionless entity but seemingly exhausted Aramaki.
As I mentioned, as the line of human and robotics becomes increasingly blurred, Hanka Robotics are threatened by the cyber-terrorist Kuze, which sends the film into some incredibly dark scenes, typified by Major’s ‘deep dive’ into the already terrifying Geisha-bot. But cleverly, Sanders chose not to go all in on the good vs evil story, as he touches on the identity battle Major faces as she experiences these ‘Glitches’, which becomes the more interesting storyline.
And this story comes to a boiling point when Major comes face to face with Kuze. The story becomes this intoxicating battle of what is good and what is evil and couples it with touches of whether these cybernetic enhancements are good or bad. But this may sound overwhelming, but it really isn’t. Jamie Moss, William Wheeler and Ehren Kruger managed to feed enough of the story throughout the first hour or so, to keep it interesting and intriguing to carry it over the remaining forty.
That’s not to say that the film is foreseeable, as the story can be construed as weak in areas, but it’s the way in which the story is told makes it compelling. This coupled with the futuristic world and the collaborative effort of the cast made the aforementioned apprehension wash away instantly.
Considering Rupert Sanders previous film was Snow White and the Huntsman (which was quietly enjoyable), it has really escalating his presence as Ghost In The Shell was incredibly enjoyable to watch and had the perfect mix of storyline, action and the beautifully crafted CGI-scenes. The action was exciting when it needed to be, especially as Batou has an extravagant scene in the nightclub. For my money, Sanders managed to create a great mainstream adaptation of the original, which I will have to watch to see how it compares, but it has done nothing but excite me more for that viewing.