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Nerdlocker Movie Review: Ghost in the Shell

In 1995, the Japanese animated film, Ghost in the Shell, based on the popular manga of the same name, became a huge success and was heralded alongside Akira (1988) as one of the greatest anime films of all-time. It felt new and original, with heady themes to match the cutting-edge animation. It inspired many filmmakers and movies, most notably the Wachowski’s and The Matrix franchise.

I hate to say it, but the 2017 live-action incarnation feels highly derivative, unoriginal, and unnecessary. The movie tries really hard and it’s evident that there’s a lot of money on the screen, but it just didn’t grab me in any way. It’s not fun or exciting and eventually my patience wore thin as I waited for the end credits. A lot of folks will dig it though. If I saw this when I was in high school, I probably would’ve enjoyed it more because I was more tolerant of spectacle over substance. It’s ironic, Ghost in the Shell bends over backwards to explain to the audience that a ‘ghost’ is a soul, and the movie’s biggest problem is that it feels empty or soulless. Ghost in the shell? False advertising.

I’m a sucker for futuristic cityscapes and skylines and the biggest appeal of the movie for me is the eye candy. The city’s design is highly influenced by Blade Runner, but no CGI can match the authentic look and feel of that masterpiece’s sets and practical effects. What we get is a distant cousin, a sort of bastardized looking digital version. I still enjoyed venturing through the city filled with huge holograms similar to the one for Jaws 19 in Back to the Future II. As the movie progressed, however, the eye candy grew stale as we seemed to see similar, generic shots of the city from a distance, over and over.

Scarlett Johansson’s character was like a mix of the alien in human skin she portrayed in Under the Skin and her Black Widow character from the Marvel movies; the artificial humanity of the former mixed with the action chops of the latter. She never quite finds the pulse of the character here, though. The action scenes felt similar to The Matrix, but nowhere near as exciting or groundbreaking as those were at the time.

Ghost in the Shell has a clunky script with some cruddy dialogue and a super corny villain. The tone feels more like a summer superhero blockbuster than thinking man’s Sci-fi and it’s not a film that I want to revisit. While it missed the mark for me, it might just be the escapist fare you’re looking for. Check it out for yourself and form your own opinion, but proceed with caution.

2.5 out of 5 Nerdskulls

Ghost in the Shell is now playing in theaters everywhere.

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Check out the Critics Circle on Radio Brave, the Houston Film Critics Society’s weekly program.



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Salty Winters once said, "Everything I learned I learned from the movies." He was quoting Audrey Hepburn.