I don’t usually write movie reviews, but since we’re talking Ghost in the Shell, so I just have to. I’ll make it short, I promise.
WARNING! Spoiler ahead
OK, here it goes:
- Artificial Intelligence
When both are contained in a cybernetic shell, can you differentiate a human consciousness from self-aware, man-made “Ghost”? Does it matter that one starts in a womb of a human being, and the other as a project in a military R&D lab? And does one deserve more rights than the other? Artificial Intelligence has always been a major focus through out multiple iterations of Ghost in the Shell, be it the manga, the two movies, the SAC tv series, and recently the ARISE series. The 2017 movie, having been released into the era where we are fascinated with IBM Watson, self-driving cars, Google Assistant and Amazon’s Alexa, somehow, inexplicably, tiptoed away from it. I see Hollywood producers shifting the theme to the generic evil corporation doing evil thing instead of the deep philosophy of existence of “Ghost” in the machine as them having doubt about their audiences’ capabilities (or interest) in discerning complex themes and topics. Some of you would argue that the SAC series did the evil-corp theme. Well, the evil-corp (and government) thingie in the SAC series is a mere backdrop for the bigger (and I would argue as complex as AI) Stand Alone Complex phenomenon, which itself, is actually on point with the recent rise of internet meme, where the AI theme itself is still prevalent in the form of the Tachikoma smart tanks and their evolution to gain self-awareness. Even in its’ original form, Ghost in the Shell is not something for everyone, it prefers to talk about something thoughtful and interesting instead of mass appeal and commercial success.
- Motoko Kusanagi
Whitewashing issue notwithstanding, I’m OK with Ms. Johansson as the Major. What bothers me is how she is written. The 2017 movie depicts her as an anti technology hipster teenager that was caught by the evil corporation, and turned into a cybernetic soldier. One year later she hold the rank of military major and joined a spec-ops specialist unit. In-one-friggin-year. They could have written 10 or 15 years later and the movie would have been fine with it since her body will not age anyway. While the original Major is calm and calculated military operative, the 2017’s Motoko is brash action hero that, typical to her Hollywood heritage, eagerly disobey orders from her superior. Why? Because Hollywood wants us to see a vulnerable, young Motoko that questions her existence as something that is totally different than the rest of humanity and machines. Unfortunately, they ended up showing it in a some awkward scene between her and some random woman. This rewritings also inadvertently made her (look like) the rookie of the team, switching place with Togusa, the original rookie, who is a veteran in this movie.
- Section 9, Togusa and his revolver
Togusa was originally a young cops who has fondness for a vintage revolver, a Mateba Autorevolver. The new Togusa however, is an old cop branding a modern Chiappa Rhino revolver. Which is funny because, Togusa loves his revolver because it’s a vintage. Having Togusa uses a modern revolver where better alternative exist made him.. well.. stupid, instead of sentimental, or romantic. At least they gave Togusa a revolver. He seems to be a lot older than his manga and anime counterparts, which is in contrast to the original character’s main appeal, which are his idealism, rookie image, and his feeling of inferiority compared to his Section 9 peers. The 2017 movie seems to picture him as a veteran aide to Aramaki. He wears a device that starps around the back of his neck that in my assumption helps him doing the mind /mental comms with his cyberized teammates, indicating that instead of having the less amount of implant compared to the rest of section 9 ( aside from Aramaki), the 2017’s Togusa is thoroughly pure with no implant whatsoever.
Writers of the 2017 movie decided to reduce Togusa, Ishikawa, Saito, and other member of Section 9 appearance into some sort of cameo, while the Major, Batou, and to lesser extent Aramaki take center stage. Assuming that there will be sequel, I’m ok with this. Writing something interesting for all of the characters might actually butcher the script. The cameos are at the very least, done properly. Saito’s sniping, and again, Togusa’s revolver to name a few.
- Kenji Kawai & Yoko Kanno
I miss Kenji Kawai and Yoko Kanno. I miss Kenji Kawai and Yoko Kanno.
- For the fans!
From Togusa’s revolver, recreation of Major’s jumps, thermoptic fight with the terrorist in the shallow lake, the battle with Spider-Tank, to the geisha robot from GitS: SAC first episode. While these are no subtitude to the missing “ghost” inside the movie’s shell, at least we have Togusa wielding a revolver.
Not that it’s a bad movie, it’s a decent, visually impressive cyberpunk flick, if not a bit too generic. But it’s not Ghost in the Shell. At least, not yet. To summarize, The Shell is there, but the Ghost? Not yet, maybe in the sequel.