Goddammit, Hollywood! How can you continue to fuck things up like this? Like with Avatar: The Last Airbender before, you had something where your source material was already so fucking amazing, and yet you thought to yourself, "You know, millions of people the world over love this original animated production... We should make a HUGELY BUDGETED live action movie based on the property!.... But we should change everything about it that people liked before we give it a greenlight. That way old fans and the general population will hate it with equal vigor and wonder why we bothered! Brilliant!"
Just as a movie on its own merits, this Ghost in the Shell is abhorringly ridiculous. As a remake of the anime, it's abysmal. It took one of the most intelligent sci-fi properties ever created, and lowered it to below the standards of the worst Bones or NCIS episodes ever produced.
I'll cover my thoughts on just the movie first, and then I'll come back and judge it based on the other works in the almost 30-year-old GitS franchise.
Just the movie first
So, Ghost in the Shell takes place in the near-far future, and is all about Scarlett Johansson's character (who I believe actually has the retarded first name of "Major") — the first fully-cybernetic human — acclimating herself to the secret, super bad-ass, counter-terrorist government team known as Section 9 that she was only recently drafted into. Major stumbles upon a brain-hacking group of terrorists led by the enigmatic cyber-criminal "Kuze," who is like a mad hacker with crazy hacking skillz who can use geisha-bots to hack into the minds of some hacked top executives at the world's leading cybernetics corporation, HANKA.
Together with her hulking partner Batou, and her Section Chief Aramaki (played by the ever awesome "Beat" Takeshi!), Major tracks down the most obvious clues ever left behind by the laughably shortsighted super-criminal Kuze. She also finds out that both Kuze and herself were actually unwilling participants of HANKA's vile full-body-transfusion experiments (contrary to what HANKA told Major). The two cyborgs then team up to try and find out why HANKA would equip random homeless teenagers (like what Major and Kuze were before the body swapping) all the advanced hardware and software that they had at their disposal in the two most expensive bodies ever manufactured. They find out that HANKA needed pliable minds that they could use to infiltrate Section 9 and other targets of major government importance, essentially preparing for a corporate takeover of the Japanese ministry.
I'm just fucking with you. That last sentence was all made up by me, but it was 5,000,000Xs more interesting and more intelligent than what the movie ends up giving us. Oh, but Major and Kuze really were just whiny, homeless, teenage hippies when they were transformed into the robotic monsters that they became, but we're never told WHY they were used for these experiments. The rest of the movie is just Major having flashbacks to her previous (and lame) life, and trying to sort out how she feels about what HANKA did to her. It's like a very shittily-written Robocop remake. Yes, it's even worse than the official Robocop remake from a few years back.
The ending has Major and the rest of Section 9's elite operatives targeted and hunted by HANKA's useless faceless minions. Why? They never really make anything clear, but I think it was because nobody in the secretive and secret-finding Section 9 ever bothered to look into where the amnesiac cyborg (who was thrust into their organization) really came from, but now that they thought about it, they just might get around to asking at least one simple question about her background. Like, for example, "WHO THE FUCK SHE ACTUALLY WAS before they scooped her brain out of her organic body and plopped it into a super-robot's head?" Which would put a crimp in HANKA's plan for Major... Which again, I'm not 100% sure what that may have been.
Oh, and of course the faceless minions get their butts handed to them by the old, but resilient, "Beat" Aramaki because they are stupid and he is grizzled and tough and smart.
Then we follow Major as she meets up with Kuze in their previous lives' hippie hideout, where we find out that Major was originally a Japanese chick named Motoko Kusanagi (Grooooooooan... Which if you didn't know, this is the REAL name of ScarJo's character in the real Ghost in the Shell series and movies). Then a giant and sssssssssllllllllllllllooooooooooowwwwww "spider-tank" attacks the two of them, with HANKA's CEO personally driving the large vehicle o'death because no more fucks were given by the writers at this point.
Kuze is killed like a bitch, but Section 9 then blows the rest of HANKA's minions the fuck up, and then Aramaki cold-bloodedly wastes the CEO himself because FUCK the law and the justice system! Let "Beat" Aramaki shoot more people!
The narrative was one of the most simple and ludicrous "Point A to Point B to Point C" movie plots I've ever seen outside of a Michael Bay production, or a Care Bears flick. It was like it was written for children who THINK that they're clever because they just learned to follow storylines that have more than two characters. The cast was filled with mostly banal, non-expressive dullards, with the only real exceptions being Aramaki and Major's partner, Batou. ScarJo's Major was the most "deadfish" performance I've witnessed in any film in the past ten years. The only thing I can compare it to is the "acting" in any of George Lucas' Prequels — wooden and uninspired.
Beyond that, one of my biggest issues with this movie is this: why would the SEAL Team 6 of the Japanese Homeland Security branch allow an outside corporation to handpick their newest team member? Especially when said member remembers NOTHING of her past and turns out to simply be a Robocopped runaway teenager... Once again, I didn't make that up. HANKA Corp. essentially turned a whiny Japanese runaway into a fully cybernetic monster, wiped her memories clean, gave her the obviously made up first name of "Major," and then just handed her over to Section 9.
Major — and everyone else she works for and with — believes that before her cyberization she was a refugee on a boat attacked by terrorists on her way to Japan.... That's the PERFECT person to allow into the super secretive and elite counter terrorist paramilitary group: a refugee from another country with no mental fortitude for the job, and no allegiance or ties to the nation in question! Ugh... Seriously, why didn't they replace her old memories with something a little more plausible and justifiable? Like, say she had "12 years experience on the front lines of a war." Did the writers think these LARGE implications through, or just play Mad-Libs with current political buzzwords?
Oh! And once again, I'm not even sure if ScarJo's character's name is Major, but I think that the screenwriters simply do NOT understand how military rank is used in referring to a person. For example, if one had the rank of General and they were talking to someone on a secure line, they'd probably say "This is General Whats-his-face." Or even "This is Whats-his-face." They would not say "This is General." This leads me to believe that ScarJo's character actually has the first name of "Major," even though this is the dumbest name I've ever heard of since a family friend called their kid "Doctor.".... He became a janitor when he grew up. But I digress.
Okay, now on to how this flick compares to the manga and anime that have come before!
It doesn't. Not at all.
First of all, the manga and anime are all very intelligent narratives (well, excluding GitS: Arise) that focus on some pretty deep political intrigue and the ideas behind "what it means to be human." The Major simply oozes self-confidence in her earlier incarnations, and she's totally earned her place as the second in command of Section 9.
Here, in this terrible and unnecessary live-action remake, Major's kind of a pussy, and she constantly disobeys direct orders from the badass Section Chief, Aramaki, with no good reason for ever doing so (other than she's a petulant little bitch, and it's the only way the awful writers could think of to move the shitty plot along). And she's always in way over her head no matter what situations she finds herself in, like a 5 year-old suddenly being put in charge of her kindergarten class because the principal thought "Well, her first name IS 'Teacher.' She must know how to do this." Then the school administrators are completely flabbergasted when she ends up having the class write "Doody!" in finger paints all over their desks and the chalkboard.
The movie LOOKS amazing though. The futuristic city that the story takes place in is beautiful, if a bit grimy, and it totally has its own personality and feels like a pretty well-developed character itself. But speaking of characters, the only two actual people who act like their drawn counterparts are Chief Aramaki and Batou. Man, I really liked the dude playing Batou; he had the right attitude and will behind his eyes... Yes, that was a joke (he has cybernetic, very non-human-looking optics).
That's the only good thing that I can say about this live action abortion of could-have-been greatness: the megalopolis looked cool, and two of the characters looked and acted like their previous selves. The fact that they dropped the ball on both the Major and Kuze's film versions is a goddamn crime. Kuze was a major player in the second GitS animated series. There, he has his brain hacked to believe that he's part of a ritualistic revolution known as the Individual Eleven, but after he breaks free of that mind-rewrite, he uses his vast intellect to unite the refugees from multiple Southeast Asian countries who are flooding Japan due to a terrible war that's destroying their homelands. The anime Kuze is noble, sharp, and a great tactician. In the movie he is a moron whose plans to assassinate the heads of HANKA only succeed because HANKA is filled with even bigger idiots than himself.
Alright. I think that's enough bitching. You get my point: the movie tries to be smart, but is actually aimed at imbeciles who can't even follow a tennis match. The characters are basically just paper-thin representatives of their anime and manga counterparts, with their names and haircuts being the only ties to their original incarnations (and in the Major's case, they can't even get that right). They don't even attempt to cover the basic ideas that Ghost in the Shell is built upon: inventive and knowledgeable political intrigue, and deep philosophical questions about what it means to be alive and human. The closest this movie comes to that is when we find out who Major and Kuze were before becoming cyborgs, and the script is so lazy and doesn't care enough to push this train of thought in any meaningful direction, so there's no reason we, the audience, should even give it a second thought ourselves.
I am not one who even believes that a remake of something has to follow the original word for word, or plot point for plot point; I just want them to get the basic premise right, and the characters to act like their original personalities. Otherwise, what is the point of even making a movie based on an already well-known franchise.
But beyond that — even if they don't get the premise and characters to match what came before — just give us A GOOD MOVIE. Ghost in the Shell (2017) is not a good movie. Giant plot holes, stupidity moving the story along, and characters named "Major" simply make me feel like I wasted 2 hours of my life on this dreck.
After finishing up this review, I will personally never try to think of this movie again, unless my friends and I start discussing the worst live-action film adaptions of anime ever produced. This will be in my top ten, along with Dragon Ball: Evolution and Attack on Titan. Damn it, Scarlett... I thought you were better than garbage like this.
I haaaaaaaaated it! Pee-yeeeeeewwwwww, with a capital "P"!
Yo, my homies, you know of my deep love of all cyberpunky shiznit, as well as smart as fuck detective stories. That's why I loved me some animated Ghost in the Shell. Despite Mamoru Oshii's best attempts to mentally masturbate his way through those two movies, they were deep to the gills, amigo.
This here American movie is simply a bomb. No, not THE bomb, just "A" bomb. It's just sooooooooo fucking duuuuuuuuuuuumb. I mean, when you watched one of the anime episodes, you usually had to watch that fucker twice in order to understand all that complex shit goin' down in it. This movie? If you don't know how it's gonna end within the first 10 minutes, then you must need your head stapled on your shoulders, fool, lest that sucker float away.
And while I don't care all that much about "white washing" roles in American movies, I find it silly as hell that not only did they make the Major a white girl in this thing, but it turns out that she really WAS a Japanese girl before being turned into a white girl in the actual plot! Now THAT is the definition of comedy in my book, G.
Arrrrrrrr. Painful this movie be. I disliked everything about it, except how badass that old man was. Arrrr, he was a stone-cold killin' machine! Too bad he only talked in Chinese, or Japanese, and I didn't bring me glasses with me. I'm pretty sure though that he was sayin' things like, "Fuck you, and the horse you rode in on," and "I am going to shoot you in your head now... Now you are dead."