In the future, humans are now able to fully interface with computers and the line between robots and mankind is blurred. The Major (Scarlett Johansson) is the first of her kind - a robot with a human brain - but is haunted by visions of her past and when a dangerous terrorist (Michael Carmen Pitt) is out to destroy her creators, she begins to lose her grip on reality and what she thought she knew of her past.
he live-action remake of Ghost In The Shell has, from the very beginning, had to work against accusations of white-washing and cries of Hollywood bastardising a boldly original piece of work in Mamoru Oshii's anime film. Settling in to watch the Hollywood adaptation, it's clear that director Rupert Sanders, writers Jamie Moss, Ehren Kruger and William Wheeler, and Scarlett Johansson are trying to come at the material in a faithful and meaningful way. There's all the hallmarks of a heavily-researched, deeply careful production - but there's very little in the way of soul or life in the film.
carlett Johansson does her best with the role, not exactly defining it beyond a few action setpieces. It's hard to know if she's trying to play a robot or someone who's uncomfortable in her own skin, but the result is a particularly stilted and wooden performance that doesn't draw you in. She's more than capable of playing an other-worldly, disconnected being - you only need to look at the disturbing Under The Skin to know what she's capable of. But here, it's all so drowned in neon, special effects and the relentless push of the film that it gets lost. When the film does pump the brakes here and there to try and let the character build, it almost gets a little pervy in the way the camera lingers over Johansson's physique. There's one scene where she and Pilou Asbaek are having a serious discussion about who she can trust - whilst she stripping out of a skin-tight scuba suit.
he supporting cast make a much better fist of the material. Pilou Asbaek, who plays Sgt. Batou, has enough of a physical presence to make an impression whilst Beat Takeshi - as Chief Aramaki - is criminally underutilised in the film. Michael Carmen Pitt, meanwhile, has a couple of interesting scenes, but not enough for us to think of him as anything other than tacked on to the story. Meanwhile, Juliette Binoche is reduced to exposition and Peter Ferdinando is the typical evil suit who you just know will feature later on in the story. While most of the performances are largely adequate, there's a sense that nobody was really sure what they were doing and almost every actor was either giving a cold reading of their lines, or that they didn't really know how to take on the material.
or his part, director Rupert Sanders has managed to portray the urban, technologically-advanced cityscape with a real deftness. When you see the film in IMAX 3D, it does jump right out of the screen and Clint Mansell's synth-laden soundtrack helps to pull you into the world. Sanders' background in stylish advertisements has served him well for creating a slick and vibrant world, but when it comes to directing dramatic moments in the film and getting us to a point where we can understand the characters, he fails miserably and the actors are left trying to spin their own take on a scene. More to the point, the visuals themselves aren't all that original. We've seen neon-drenched cities before in the likes of Blade Runner or the unnecessary Total Recall remake, and the unusual way in which human / computer hacking is done has been in the likes of The Matrix. Yet, it's important to remember that Ghost In The Shell was a touchstone for a lot of these; in the case of The Matrix, it was the jumping-off point for The Wachowskis.
host In The Shell feels a lot like Disney's attempt at John Carter. It's not necessarily a bad film, but there's nothing new going on here and the performances aren't strong enough to sustain it beyond this. Had a stronger director been involved, we might have had something that would at least compliment the original, if not offer a unique perspective.
s it stands, Ghost In The Shell is a decent, if safe and conventional, take on something far more original.