Admittedly, I wasn’t exposed to Ghost in the Shell’s Japanese manga and anime. So when the news of Scarlett Johansson’s casting broke out and the whitewashing accusation started rolling in, I was honestly just… well, fed up. I mean, I know you all mean well. But screaming about it in raging capslock will not help appeal for your case. At least, it didn’t work for me. So you know, despite the notion of supporting Hollywood’s whitewashing culture by watching it in the cinema instead of boycotting
or pirating it online because, hey, at least I’m not giving them a dime!, I went to watch it. And it exceeded expectations. And yes, there’s actually context for Scarlett Johansson’s casting.
After being saved from a terrorist attack, Major Mira Killian (Scarlett Johansson) became the first of her kind: human’s consciousness in a synthetic cyber-enhanced body. With her crews in the Section 9, she is the perfect soldier to stop world’s most dangerous criminals under Aramaki’s (Takeshi Kitano) lead. Which led her to Kuze (Michael Pitt), who will stop at nothing to destroy Hanka Robotics, the company that gave birth to the Major.
The first thing that one would notice upon watching this movie is how visually pleasing it is. Yes, we’ve seen countless cyberpunk futuristic reiteration of what the world would look like centuries – or even decades – from now. But Ghost in the Shell was quite a vision, especially with how Jess Hall’s cinematography made good use of the aesthetic landscape. I’m pretty sure about 75% (or maybe more) of this movie was screenshot worthy. And, let’s admit it, Scarlett Johansson herself was a vision, executing those moves in those skin
Sure, Scarlett did got that patented frown on her face most of the time, but she nailed the stiff not-quite-robotic-but-aren’t-passable-as-human mannerism down to the dots. It’s a painful reminder that, despite her looks and her human brain, she’s just an intricate man-made machine. Something that she herself knows all too well and convey through her actions. Because Ghost in the Shell is ultimately about the blurred line between human and machine. What makes one “human”? Is it your brain, your memories, or your ghost-slash-soul? This was the underlying theme of this movie, imparted mostly through Scarlett’s Mira and her existential crisis. It wasn’t Scarlett’s best, obviously, but she did well enough to made it work. Although there is one particular shot where her face, posture, and even suit makes her looks a lot like she’s Natasha Romanoff in disguise.
Aside from said notion, though, Ghost in the Shell didn’t actually offered anything novel or groundbreaking. It wasn’t predictable per se, but the story development was of the “I saw that coming” kind. There were rooms for improvement and it could’ve been better, but it was both enjoyable and easy to digest. Scarlett being the Major was explained quite nicely and it did played a part in the story, expanding on the existing myth concerning the Major. This movie was also a nice set up for the Ghost in the Shell’s universe, and raised other questions concerning the whole human-or-machine thing. How much can you cyber-enhanced your body before you crossed the line? And does doing so – or opting not to do so – make you somehow better than the other? I found this movie fascinating, and I’m curious enough to search the Japanese movie up. Perhaps this will be my gateway.
Ghost in the Shell was a visually pleasing movie with rather thought provoking notions. It suffered from weak story development and paper thin-with-tokenism-traits supporting characters, but it delivered a good entertainment. The Major’s adversary was too bland and unappealing for my liking, but if we’re being honest, Scarlett Johansson’s looks single-handedly made this movie worth watching. The feels were just welcomed bonus.
Director: Rupert Sanders. Writers: Jamie Moss, William Wheeler, Ehren Kruger. Released on: 29 March 2017. Casts: Scarlett Johansson, Takeshi Kitano, Michael Pitt, Pilo Asbaek, Chin Han, Juliette Binoche, Peter Ferdinando.