Directed by: Rupert Sanders
Starring: Scarlett Johansson, Pilou Asbaek, Takeshi Kitano, Juliette Binoche, Michael Pitt
Runtime: 106 min
Ghost in the Shell (1995) is a very influential anime movie that inspired several great films (The Matrix, AI: Artificial Intelligence, ...), so a live-action adaptation felt needed. Scarlett Johansson plays Major, a cyber-enhanced human that is built to prevent and stop terrorism, something that she's uniquely qualified to do since she's the first of her kind.
As a new enemy appears, she discovers that her life might not have been saved, but yet stolen. She goes on a journey to recover what she can of her memories and try to stop it from being done to other people, while a psychological battle around humanity and life takes place throughout the film.
I didn't watch the original anime film. The truth is, even if this is a remake, it should stand on its own with no needed comparisons to the original, something I usually don't quite follow (I tend to watch the original film in order to understand better the remake, reboot, live-action adaptation, whatever). However, I do know about the huge influence that Ghost in the Shell (1995) had on great movies from the past and I also understand that it's one of the best anime movies ever made, based on most fans and critics' opinions.
With that in mind, this version of Ghost in the Shell it's definitely far from that. Its story goes from interesting and captivating to a boring, slow-paced film with surprisingly just "ok" action scenes. The concept of the whole film is really something amazing: Major searching for answers (does she have a soul? Is she human? Is she a cyborg? Are there more like her or is she really different?) and the visually stunning world (that's definitely where the budget went to) are key elements to the film ... In concept ... Execution-wise, well, not that much.
Scarlett Johansson does a great job and her character has a compelling backstory, as well as Kuze (Michael Pitt), who I think could have been more explored. Batou (Pilou Asbaek) is also a great side-character and an excellent partner for Major, I thoroughly enjoyed the scenes with them together (action-wise and not). The soundtrack is what astound me the most, it's really memorable and I have it on my Spotify playlist already. It's amazing.
The big problem with this film is its execution. Rupert Sanders isn't able to moderate the pacing with the character development scenes, therefore a dull, boring and uneventful second act comes to life. The action that the trailers show are really the best that the movie has since the rest is super choppy. I don't understand how an actress as Scarlett Johansson, who does most of her own stunts and choreography in the Marvel universe, isn't able to perform a sequence without dozens of cuts between (bad director?).
Furthermore, the "villain" feature of the movie isn't that great either. They try to put up a twist at the beginning of the third act and switch things a bit ... It didn't work. I can't really go in detail, but it's a failed try to boost up the film and end it with a thrilling finale.
All in all, Ghost in the Shell has an excellent concept that is badly executed. The story itself is interesting and deserves the beautifully captured CGI that gives birth to a whole new stunning world, as well as the amazing soundtrack. Scarlett Johansson is as compelling as her character (I honestly don't understand what's the "whitewash" problem that Hollywood keeps trying to fault movies for) and the supporting cast also does a great job. Execution-wise, the movie faults due to its slow-pace which brings the whole film down to an extremely boring second act. The action is disappointingly directed and the villain should have been a lot better.