Ghost In the Shell: A disappointing hack.

10 April 2017

Last Thursday I made the probably unwise decision to see the live-action interpretation of Ghost In the Shell starring Scarlet Johannson at the local movie theater.  The terrible weather in the Bay Area aside (continual rain, Washington DC-like cold, gusts of wind up to 50 miles per hour), it's just not a good movie.  I was expecting a half-assed retelling of the original movie's story with additional Hollywood elements, and I wasn't disappointed in that respect.

tl;dr - Don't bother.  ScarJo's new movie is a bad cosplay that'll leave you feeling like you just took some pills a random person in a bar gave you and washed them down with a double something, straight up.

I'm not going to comment on the racial breakdown and whitewashing of the characters; people far more erudite than I have already done so in an exhaustive fashion.

I can't help but feel like the screenplay for this movie (I'll refer to it this way for convenience) was generated by someone training a Markov engine on the scripts for everything in the GItS corpus: The movie, Innocence, the television series, et multiple cetera, and then fed another script into the engine (I keep thinking it was Highlander 2) to see what it would produce.  The output of that bot was then turned into this movie.  The screenwriters cherrypicked bits and pieces from all through the GItS corpus, shuffled them together into roughly some kind of order, then vacuumed the poetic and philosophical depth from the entire thing because USians are normally treated as stupid and uninterested in anything other than boobs and gunfire by Hollywood.  Just enough was left to make old-time fans raise an eyebrow and expect something more, but we were only left with disappointment and frustration.

Among the bits and pieces you can expect is the classic "Making of a cyborg" sequence, the spider tank, a variation of the opening sequence from Innocence, a piece or two from Alternative Architecture, and diving.  There is some fractional-assed mumbling about identity and spirituality, and the use of the word "ghost" is thrown in there like a newbie tagger's furtive first attempt at applying graffiti to an elementary school.  Some long-beloved characters from GItS were haphazardly renamed and/or thown into the story in vaguely appropriate ways (Haraway, Kuze Hideo, and yes, Kusanagi Motoko), probably in an attempt to give GItS fen something to hang onto.  I'm starting to suspect that Adam Savage's squeeing on Youtube about the physical FX of the movie, namely the engineering that went into the geishabots, the Major's camosuit, and the full-scale skeleton were a bit more than Savage sharing his love of special effects with his fans... not to say that they weren't pretty, they were, but I'm pretty sure that if I hadn't watched those videos like a total tool I would not have bothered to see the movie at all.  There also appears to have been a casual cameo by a certain surly bartender with a prosthetic arm from Gibson's Neuromancer for good measure as well as backhanded references to the SERVER monks from Tales From the Afternow.

In summary, this is a C movie, a B movie at best, cosplaying as Ghost In the Shell.  Don't even bother.  At best, it'll be a good trigger for people to google "Ghost In the Shell," discover the manga and anime, and be exposed to something that's actually interesting and decent.