Monday, August 27, 2018

Ghost In The Shell

"My name is Major Mira Killian and I give my consent."
There was a lot of controversy surrounding Scarlett Johansson in the role of Major Motoko Kusanagi. All of it was pressure from the politically correct thought police regarding the white washing of the Japanese anime character. It is a cartoon creation right? Human Torch was a comic book creation of a white man ultimately portrayed by a black actor in film too.

But whatever.

Apparently it wasn't enough to knock her out of the film. Not quite enough pressure from her flock. Fast forward a few years and we have the #MeToo movement in full swing and a host of other movements upset about race or sex or gender identity politics or straws or balloons or some thing in one form or another.

In fact it's so bad now even liberal Scarlet Johansson bowed out of playing the part of a transgender in a new film (Rub And Tug) because people were upset. But of course she payed them all the required apologetic lip service and appeasement necessary to retain her politically correct status and remain a proper liberal in good standing. Remember where appeasement got Europeans with the Nazis in the 1940s.

Of course playing these various roles I thought was a profession referred to as acting but who am I?

No one wants to upset anyone with an agenda and well playing right into those hands will only make it harder in the future for all of Hollywood. The men there should have an idea by now how the rules of the game will be bent right or wrong.

Well, they gave it a shot with Ghost In The Shell (2017). This writer, a fan of the Japanese anime by Mamoru Oshii, was open to seeing the live action interpretation. I'm just one of those people who can put politics aside and enjoy the art. I even championed it hoping for the best and wishing those involved well.

It seems fitting this writer viewed Ghost In The Shell after Blade Runner 2049 (2017). The world of artifice is in full effect in both films, but there is something about Ghost In The Shell that lacks the artfulness of Ridley Scott's world or even Denis Villenueve's film. It's filled with computer animation and details. It's busy, but not beautiful or visually enticing or interesting like the Blade Runner films visions of the future. This film feels, sadly, artless.

Sequences involving the Major that should be dripping with quality cinematography are dark and generally uninteresting. The battle with the Spider Tank, also dark, isn't nearly as dynamic or memorable as Oshii's film.

There were legitimate concerns to see Ghost In The Shell in the hands of director Rupert Sanders. He's no Scott or Villenueve. It's not even a close call and the results bear that fruit.

The scriptwriters do the source material a significant injustice deviating significantly from the original story. Where the film goes will likely disappoint those who prefer material be faithful. One of the screenwriters was responsible for several of the dreadful Transformers films. Another was involved with X:Men: First Class and I've never loved the X-Men films for often radically departing from the story threads of the comic books. Why? Ghost In The Shell also misses the graceful, existential considerations the anime handled so beautifully. Those concepts seem clunky and forced here.

There are some nice tributes here from the basset hound (an Oshii favorite) to the faithfulness of some scenes from the anime, but it doesn't translate quite as well to live action in Sanders' hands. It's a bit of an empty shell really.

Fans of the anime and the various extensions like Ghost In The Shell: Stand Alone Complex and Arise should see it to scratch the itch of curiosity, but this is by no means an essential interpretation. The anime, based on the manga, is infinitely better, more complex, more philosophically and intellectually sound and satisfying than this film. Fans would be better sticking to the anime medium and the various offshoots of that franchise.

This film isn't nearly as smart as it wishes it was and even deviates from the existential exploration advanced and explored by Oshii. Performances are generally not great either including Johansson's work, who I'm beginning to think phones it in an awful lot. It is true however that this generally dumb, dumb script doesn't help the cast.

Sanders just really misses the mark with a graceless, grim and drab piece of world-building that is downright depressing and visually painful.

One last thing, who is Major Mira Killian? Sigh.

Oh well, maybe another director, another scriptwriter and another time.

Writer: Jamie Moss/ William Wheeler/ Ehren Kruger.

Director: Rupert Sanders.


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