Movie Review: “I Can’t Remember, But I’m Haunted By It,” Ghost in the Shell

Ghost in the Shell, the remake of the 1995 anime film starring Scarlett Johansson, is worth seeing.

Visually, it’s beautiful and impressive, blurring the line between what’s real and what’s not. The 3D is probably the best I’ve experienced. The technology of the world is so intricate and thought out, so detailed, and plenty of shots use the 3D to show the size and scope of the future.

The animation is seamlessly blended until a sequence late in the movie that appears to have a full CGI Johansson, moving in ways that weren’t quite human. But that’s part of the point of the movie, and whether or not it was intentional, those moments illustrated something about her character, the Major.

Johansson plays the Major well, regardless of whether or not she should have been cast, and her portrayal is true to whom (or what) the Major is.

The central conceit of the movie is that the Major is a human brain/consciousness inside a robot body, a “ghost” in a “shell.”

The plot is interesting and entertaining, though sometimes heavily telegraphed, to the point where moments that should probably be reveals are more like foregone conclusions. The plot still works, though, and works well to feed into the thematic elements of the movie.

The themes of what humanity is, what reality is, and what does it matter are on display the whole time. Even if the movie doesn’t answer its thematic questions, it gives the audience something to think about.

Sometimes the dialogue can be clunky when approaching the meaty topics, but for the most part the dialogue is fine and sometimes powerful.  Several characters speak only in subtitled dialogue, and I found myself impressed with how good the subtitles look. After John Wick 2 and this, there appears to be a trend in making subtitles look good. I’m all for it.

I also support the action in this movie, even though sometimes it doesn’t fit with all the more introspective parts and the identity story elements. The action scenes in Ghost in the Shell are pretty darn good, especially when they put the Major’s ability of cybernetic camouflage on display.

The action scenes falter when they become too big a part of the movie: the final one is no doubt impressive, but elements of it feel too big, almost cartoonish. Which leads me to a confession: I haven’t seen the anime. I can only judge this movie by itself, and by itself, it’s very good. I have no clue how it compares to the anime, but it makes me want to watch the anime. That’s a good sign.