A Long Overdue Review: Ghost in the Shell Liveaction Movie

Disclaimer: What I say in this review are my opinions and thoughts and don’t represent the views of my employer (in case they find this lol)

Now that the formalities are done with, let me begin my tale. I went to the theatres to watch the Ghost in the Shell Live Action the day it came out because I had a day off from work and I got free tickets. I went in expecting GitS to be pretty terrible because everyone was bashing on it (I’m sure you all heard the whole whitewashing issue) and because anime live action adaptations rarely meet my expectations (AoT I’m looking at you)

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Anyways, so I went to watch this movie but when I went, I went in not really knowing what the anime movie was about. I did read Takuto’s post about GitS but reading about it and actually watching the movie and series are different (plus I don’t think his review covered the movie the live action was based off of)

In a way I went in with an objective mindset (unlike the AoT showing). And this is a “review” but it’s more me trying to say this was a decent watch, even though everything I say might sound contrary. Minor spoilers (possibly)

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GitS: the liveaction follows Major, the first successfully crafted cyber enhanced human (I believe they’re called) by Hanka Robotics. Since everything ran smoothly, Cutter, the CEO of Hanka, decides to immediately put her out on the streets to fight against terrorism. Fast forward one year later and Major is now working for Section 9 and her current job is to stop a terrorist attack at a Hanka meeting. Successfully destroying the Geisha robot and armed men that attack, Major comes to learn that the real puppet master is a guy named Kuze


The day I went to see GitS with my brother there were a lot of empty seats. Since it’s premiere I haven’t really seen many people go watch it at our location. Not sure how it’s been faring at other theatres but overall I thought it was a decent watch with the same problems many adaptations and oneshot movies carry

The Story

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Like the GitS anime, I was pretty interested in the story here. I don’t normally go out of my way to watch this genre because there’s so much speaking and not enough action (guilty, I know!). I was hoping that this time there’d be a mix of action but we didn’t actually get much of that. There was the one part at the beginning where Major crashes into the meeting and kills the terrorists but aside from this (and two other spots), we don’t get much action, especially not anything amazing

Instead the movie seems more focused on the whole identity issue of a machine and their lack of agency. In this world, Major is suffering from “glitches” that turn out to be more important than she realizes at first. She begins to wonder who she is, where she came from, her purpose, and who she can trust, especially since she’s a robot created and monitored by Hanka

It comes to a point where she realizes that she never truly had freedom and placing myself in her shoes, I’d be terrified

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In terms of how it fit into the movie, I did think it was well done to a degree. The topics are clear and the message was received. How well it was done in a 2 hour film, I feel, is debatable because it competes with other elements

Casting

Oh man, one of my biggest pet peeves when adapting an anime! So I went to see Attack on Titan, back when it was released in the US and I swear I would not shut up about Armin not being blonde, Eren not being brunette, everyone being Asian when it was only supposed to be Mikasa! Even now this bothers me so much. And don’t even get me started on the Death Note preview and how Light looks like a druggie (sorry but he does), L being black and posh looking (I want sleep deprived and unruly L ok)

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But in this case I was impressed. I didn’t really have a problem with anyone! Pilou Asbæk did have that Batou feel to him, especially when he got the cyber-eyes. Aramaki was missing a few features like the beard but at least he had the crazy hair. I can’t even remember Ishikawa but looking through Google confirms he looks similar enough. Togusa was the one I was pretty satisfied with because as soon as I saw him I knew it was him! Though he could have worn a brown wig or something…

And yes, I was also satisfied with Scarlett Johansson, to a degree. She did look enough like the Major and that’s all I really care about. Her acting on the other hand…not really a fan of it, especially not as the Major. To me she just didn’t stand out, I never thought she was a badass, and she looked confused 90% of the time.

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There was just something about her acting that just didn’t convey who I remember Major being. Also, she walked really bad and it distracted me throughout the movie

Antagonist

I’m going to try and not spoil anything here but our antagonist ends up being really boring. Yes he was some super hacker and I wouldn’t want to cross paths with him but his motives were so bland and his character wasn’t really developed

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In a way I felt that they just presented a cliche backstory and we were just supposed to create his character based on other stories. Because of this, what happens at the end didn’t make me feel anything. I don’t even think Major did with how she just walked off

It did present as an interesting plot twist (the movie’s way of dealing with the whitewashing issue) but it wears off pretty quickly

As for our other antagonist (Cutter)…well, he was just as meh as Kuze. In a way it almost felt like a kid throwing a tantrum, except that he had destructive weapons at his disposal

The World

One of the neatest parts of the whole movie were the visuals and the world. As soon as I saw the preview for it, I knew I was going to love it. Even the starting credits were really visually appealing. I didn’t even want to blink!

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Of course, that’s all the world really is. We don’t really get any background on it, what’s going on in the world aside from there now being machines living among humans, and basically anything else. Since I only watched this once, I’m trying to remember if they ever gave a year or location but nothing comes to mind

Just by looking at it I immediately thought of Hong Kong. I’m honestly not sure of the location and my brother did say it was Japan (maybe he saw something I missed). Either way nothing is fleshed out and that leaves me with a lot of questions, especially since the cast is pretty diverse.

We have Aramaki who is Japanese and speaks Japanese but everyone else just understands him. I imagined Major understood because she’s a robot and maybe they just developed something involving language, but what about the others who were human? We also had Ishikawa who was black, the Mother who was Japanese (I believe), Major whose actress is American, Batou whose actor is Danish, Dr. Ouelet whose actress was French, Togusa whose actor is Singaporean, and so forth.

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Had something happened in the world where all of these people had congregated to this Asian country?

Overall

Overall I didn’t think this movie was bad but it wasn’t good either. If I had to rate it, I’d probably give it a 6/10 for MAL score of Fine. There were just a lot of small details that bothered me and the biggest one was how unexplained the world was. Because of that I felt like the cast just didn’t fit and, I could be wrong, but it felt like it was diverse for the sake of having diversity. I wasn’t really a fan of Johansson’s acting as Major as she didn’t own the character

I also felt like the plot twist added an extra layer that wasn’t necessary because it seemed to address Johansson being cast instead of the story being told

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