Film Review: Ghost in the Shell (2017)


Not a fan of this one.

I love the anime, have done since I was really young.

I was really disappointed that they decided to whitewash the film, right down to the name: Mira Killian rather than Motoko Kusanagi.

Not only was it a shame that the producers decided against an Asian lead, it was also a shame they hideously fetishised what might be thought of in some circles as ‘Japanese culture’ or ‘Asian culture’ and turned it into a spectacle for Western audiences, with even some token Japanese thrown in, all safely viewed through the sanitised eyes of Mira Killian.

I know the Major is not Asian in the manga or anime. But, in the age of the remake, where is the sense in recreating a work and not changing bits? Where is the sense in doing a copy-paste from page to screen? The essence of the Major is not her race but her struggle with her identity, and the question of where she fits in the world, and indeed where humanity fits. The Major’s race, in this particular context, is irrelevant, and the time is right to introduce mainstream blockbusters with non-white leads, like the upcoming Mulan remake (or so I’ve read – TBC?).

Regardless, I was disappointed with Scarlett Johannson’s performance. Her stilted walk and lack of facial expressions make her difficult to take seriously, and she comes across as far too fearful to take up the Major’s mantle.

All of this is not to mention the glaring failure to understand the original, or else to willfully ignore its point. In the anime, Kusanagi merges with the Puppet Master, both identities being downloaded into a new shell and forming a new enlightened consciousness. In the film, after a sickly reunion where Kuze and Killian realise they knew each other in their previous lives – how emotional! – the film sees Kuze shot through the head by a sniper, his ghost extinguished, while Killian finds her original identity (interestingly, Mira was of Asian origin, which is pretty hilarious if it was meant to be a tongue-in-cheek reference to the whitewashing controversy; and also pretty hilarious if not) and by the end of the film is ready for action again, presumably all the existential questions which haunted her having been answered.

The decision to focus on Killian’s validation of her individuality through connecting with her roots is completely at odds with the anime, and disappointingly unoriginal – its the story we’ve all seen a thousand times: the hero with foggy origins find out Who She Really Is and then everything is ok. The question of augmented humans and human-machine interfaces is barely broached except for spectacular effect, and the premise that Killian is the first of her kind is naive. The only flicker of interest is when Juliette Binoche’s Dr Ouelet confesses to Killian that she is owned by the corporation that built her shell, and her consent has never been needed for any interventions. But it’s a minor statement in a film that is all action and no brain.


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