Giving up the ghost.

Please note the review below may contain minor spoilers - I've done my best to keep them to a minimum.

Attaining cult status in not only its home of Japan but in the wider world; Ghost in the Shell, the 1989’s sci-fi work by Shirow Masamune received its big screen treatment with Rupert Sanders at the helm back in March, now it makes it’s way to homes everywhere.

In a not too distant future. Beginning with a swirl of beautiful CG, depicting the creation of a cybernetic body, clad upon a human biological brain, the films titular ‘ghost within the shell’.

The aforementioned ghost - a euphemism for soul - within this mechanical body, is Major (Scarlett Johansson), the first of her kind and property of her creators - the overbearing technology corporation Hanka (led by Cutter played by Peter Ferdinando) - who have assigned her a role in Section 9, a special task force for rooting out cyberterrorism in Neo Tokyo.

After seemingly undergoing years of training, we get to see Major's full arsenal on display, as she disregards orders from her commanding officer Aramaki (Takeshi Kitano) and infiltrates - by the use of invisibility - the mid-story floor of a hotel wherein a foreign delegation and a Hanka employee find themselves under attack from both corrupted robot and human alike.

With the employee passed his sell by date, and his mind seemingly hacked for information, it’s now up to Major along with some of her Section 9 compatriots - mainly Batou played by Pilou Asbæk - to figure out the true motive behind the crime and who could be next.

Ever since the initial announcement of Scarlett Johansson as Major, Ghost in the Shell has had a swarm of hysteria surrounding it. Like most things on the internet though, it’s entirely unwarranted, resulting in many fans not only passing over what is quite the faithful adaption of their beloved manga-cum-anime, but on a fairly solid film in its own right.

The first aspect on the road to that faithful adaption, is the bustling city of Neo Tokyo; backed by a Clint Mansell score - that transfuses new with old - the city looms overwatch in practically every scene, becoming a character within itself. From a visual standpoint it’s as you’d expect, awe inspiring, showcased in slow pans across the cityscape - highlighting its holographic advertisements - Major traversing its rooftops, travelling enroute in a vehicle, or out for a walk on the city streets with Batou all culminating to exude a dangerous vibe to the viewer, whilst giving added insight of the lives led by those within.

From Tron, Robocop to Blade Runner and beyond; movies have the special ability to transport its viewer to a world quite unlike their own, and Ghost in the Shell exemplifies this aspect with its environments - whilst clearly defined by its Japanese roots - present an eclectic mix of cultures and technology jumbled into a unique hodgepodge.

It’s also clear to see the inspiration since then, of films like The Matrix, influenced by the designs of this late 80’s work.

Ghost in the Shell - (Vin Diesel, Dwayne Johnson, Michelle Rodriguez, Jason Statham, Stephen Merchant, Tyrese Gibson and Charlize Theron)

Accompanying this design and cutting-edge CG work from the Oscar winning Weta Digital - who rose to prominence through The Lord of the Rings franchise - is the sporadic action set pieces involving the team of Section 9. It’s here Ghost in the Shell shows it's only visual flaws, with the main character of Major at times defying physics and harkening to some moments of floaty animation seen in action flicks of yesteryear.

But I say ‘sporadic action’ because truly, the film, whilst clearly marketed on its futuristic aesthetic and bombastic action, is far more philosophical in nature, and honestly where Ghost in the Shell works best. It’s also here where its whitewashing naysayers completely missed the boat, focusing on the wholly unimportant Shell - of Scarlett Johansson - rather than the deeper more important Ghost within - entirely missing the point of the whole work.

And truly Ghost in the Shell was a work ahead of its time, and now its message has never been more relevant in a world edging ever closer to the themes of augmentation and transferring of one's consciousness becoming a feasible reality.

If you’re a fan of the original anime or looking for a sci-fi movie to dig your teeth into, then Ghost in the Shell is not only faithful to its Japanese origins but an interesting sci-fi movie in its own right.

Blending fantastic visuals and action with philosophical undertones, Ghost in the Shell is unfortunately a film many passed over during its cinematic release, but now with it releasing on digital platforms - and home media shortly - there’s no excuse not to partake.

A Digital review copy of Ghost in the Shell was provided by the distributor for review purposes.

  • Review by
    David Robinson

    Twitter: @5ypher

    Posted on
    27th July 2017

  • 4 Out of 5 Stars
  • Some floaty CG action

  • Faithful adaption

    Beautiful visuals

    Fun action

    Philisophical leanings

Film Info

Ghost in the Shell Ghost in the Shell
Rating: 12
Release Date: 24th July
Runtime: 1 hr 47 mins
Director: Rupert Sanders
Starring: Scarlett Johansson, Pilou Asbæk, Takeshi Kitano, Michael Pitt, Juliette Binoche, Peter Ferdinando & Chin Han

  • Ghost in the Shell (anime)
  • Ultraviolet
  • Lucy

I'd say no, whilst the majority of violence is robotic in nature, its hard to distinguish from human.

The antagonist of Kuze was a compliation of various villains from the original anime work.

For the Japanese release, the original anime voice cast reprise their roles for the dubbed version.