Ghost in the Shell review: Looks good but lacks substance

Asmita Kundu
Ghost in the Shell

Director: Rupert Sanders

Cast: Scarlett Johansson, Michael Pitt, "Beat" Takeshi Kitano, Pilou Asbæk, Juliette Binoche, Peter Ferdinand, Anamaria Marinca, Michael Wincott

Duration: 107 mins

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Paramount's new live-action drama Ghost in the Shell is just a couple of days away from its release nationwide. The Scarlett Johansson-starrer sci-fi film will open in theatres on March 31.

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Based on Masamune Shirow's classic manga series, Ghost In The Shell follows Major, a special ops, one-of-a-kind human-cyborg hybrid, who leads the elite task force Section 9. Devoted to stopping the most dangerous criminals and extremists, Section 9 is faced with an enemy whose singular goal is to wipe out Hanka Robotic's advancements in cyber technology.

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The film has stirred plenty of controversies over the casting of Scarlett Johansson in the role of The Major instead of any Asian actor. Fans are outraged and have taken to social media to point it out as an example of white feminism and whitewashing of Japanese culture.

On the release of the film, here's what critics have said:

The Hollywood Reporter

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"Not that it's easy to follow in the footsteps of Mamoru Oshii's 1995 Japanimation masterpiece, which remains a cornerstone of the genre and sits somewhere between Blade Runner and The Matrix, but Sanders and his team have clearly opted for a sleek, watered-down version that eschews much of the first film's A.I. existentialism for a futuristic shooter that never digs deep enough. Abetted by a few cool set-pieces and a gun-toting Scarlett Johansson, this Paramount release will see strong box-office returns before disappearing from most of our minds."

The Telegraph

"Purists may not want to hear it, but she's (Johansson) ideal at the conceptual side of the role. The unusual disconnect between Johansson's intelligence and her coolly dispassionate looks has been exploited before, most brilliantly in Jonathan Glazer's Under the Skin. Here she is both ghost and shell – a pair of soulful eyes, welling with memory and confusion, stranded inside a gorgeously supple action figure."

IndieWire

"Fans need not blubber unduly. As overseen by "Snow White and the Huntsman" director Rupert Sanders, this transliteration would seem faithful enough to satiate those who just want to see favorite scenes and characters redrawn on the biggest screen imaginable. As that suggests, what's been tinkered with is the scale. Oshii's knotty postmodern inquiries into identity — a stopover on that sci-fi continuum connecting "Blade Runner" to "The Matrix" — are here stretched into IMAX-ready, 3D-enabled spectacle. Blown up to this magnitude, ideas already threadbare through 20 years of recycling start to look doubly thin."

Variety

"Cinematographer Jess Hall and an army of cartwheeling VFX artists render this universe in the glossiest, glassiest strokes possible. Perhaps the only ones holding back are composers Clint Mansell and Lorne Balfe, whose stylish, techno-ominous score is mostly content to skulk in the background, only daring to reference Kenji Kawai's unshakeable theme for the 1995 film over the closing credits. It's perhaps the one area where this otherwise exhilarating reimagination could have dared to plunder its source a little more greedily."

The Wrap

"Bathed in violent neon colors and augmented by the fanciest 3D money can buy, every frame of "Ghost in the Shell" feels worked over to the max, but in the best possible way. What inventive verve the former ad-man Sanders (who's only on his second feature length film, after 2012's "Snow White and the Huntsman") lacks, he makes up for in his focus and work ethic, in his dedication to recreating the idiosyncratic anime world and making it sing in live-action."

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