Ghost in the Shell (2017)

If you don’t want to be “coloured” by what I have to say, don’t read on after this paragraph. The short of it is that there aren’t any serious Major issues to report and it didn’t suck. Get ready to be immersed in a re-imagined Hong Kong at a time when cyberspace is encroaching into human reality, yet again. You can stop here and go buy a ticket.

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Mamoru Oshii’s cult-classic anime Ghost in the Shell (1995) holds a sacred spot in my heart. This together with Akira (1988) are the epitomes of cyber tech-porn, the crowned jewels of apocalyptic Japanese animation. The future world depicted in Ghost in the Shell is alluring, but sad. It is uber-violent on the surface, but a deep melancholy runs beneath that surface. Its themes of alienation and identity beat with a strong pulse. Coupled with a superb atmosphere, dense plot, kinetic action sequences, dizzying ideas, opaque characters, mystical spiritualism and an outstanding music score, the anime earns its place as a much beloved cult-classic. Do we even need an Americanized live action version?

Thankfully, this Rupert Sanders film isn’t just a simplistic money-grab exercise. There is meticulous care in recreating the futuristic world designed by Oshii and it is a nice move not to transpose the world to some Neo-Los Angeles or NYC. In that sense, the film honours the spirit of the anime. It didn’t stop there – some of the iconic action scenes are replicated, almost shot for shot. The story is updated and feels entirely understandable now with a crystal clear resolution; it feels almost dumbed down especially with the heavy expositional second act. I don’t know about you, but for me this updated story reminds me so much of Robocop, a cyber-policeman haunted by residual memories of his human past.

Yes, this is one watchable movie filled with technical and visual wizardry, but it couldn’t carry forth the sense of melancholy so evident in the original. Yes, Scarlett Johansson does cut a fine figure as Major Motoko and she channels an extension of her cypher alien character from Under the Skin (if the mention of this movie makes you cringe, consider it fair warning that you won’t see empathetic pathos). Yes, the music borrows heavily from Kenji Kawai’s evocative original (why touch an awesome original which is an identity itself). So why is there a remake if it is just content to languish behind the glossy sheen and not want to push the envelope further with a story feels so familiar. This feels deceptively like one giant homage to the original and I am sure it will make money by the truckloads. I had one worry playing on repeat in my head as I walked out of the cinema – am I ready to be bombarded by Hollywoodized versions of Akira, Trigun, Cowboy Bebop, Patlabor, Appleseed…… I don’t want to ponder this scary thought anymore. Thankfully, I will always have the animes. That’s it; I am so watching the Oshii classic again right now.

3 / 5

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