The Big Picture

Ghost in the Shell

After Lucy and Under the Skin, Scarlett Johansson embodies once again a superhuman character for Ghost in the Shell, a movie based on the Japanese manga of the same name created by Masamune Shirow.

The film, directed by Rupert Sanders (Snow White and the Huntsman), is a futuristic tale that focuses on The Major (Johansson), a human saved from a terrible crash, who is cyber-enhanced to be a perfect soldier devoted to stopping the world’s most dangerous criminals.

By surfing on the non-human-entity-questioning-its-own-existence-which-ends-up-questioning-our-own-humanity theme previously explored in Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner, Ex Machina, and more recently HBO’s Westworld, does Ghost in the Shell manage to reinvent the genre or does it end up offering only a pale copy? Reviewers have given their verdict…

A movie that doesn’t feel like anything new

“If you’re a longstanding fan of this genre, then the original’s deep, abiding influence on Hollywood […] makes its remake feel derivative of so many movies other than its source material.” This pretty accurately translates the general opinion about the film’s attempt to explore the path that many successful sci-fi productions did in the past. Ultimately, despite the fact that it offers a lot to “look at and digest,” little of the film is truly “memorable or thought-provoking.”

Johansson turns out to be a perfect choice for The Major

Through her performance in Ghost in the Shell, Scarlett Johansson proves that she is “an actress with the presence, glamour and personality to hold together even the most outlandish and bizarre of blockbusters.” From start to finish, the visual effects crew manage to make her look perfect “as a cybernetic hybrid with a digital axe to grind.” And despite the ‘whitewashing’ polemic, she fits well “in the sense that the Major’s “shell” (i.e. body) is conceived in this script as something that isn’t a natural fit for the character, or rather the character’s “ghost” (i.e. soul).” One of the critics adds: “Whatever its shortcomings, [the movie] underlines Johansson’s credentials as the most charismatic and versatile screen superheroine of her era.”

There is a lot to enjoy visually, which makes up for a ‘ghost’ of a plot

There is no denying Rupert Sanders’ talent for creating a totally original and spectacular universe, as with this new film adaptation he confirms he “is an adept world-(re)builder and visualist.” But “mature viewers, scanning the busy horizon for more than a ghost of a plot, may find the proceedings more exhausting than rewarding,” as the “emotional pay-offs remain frustratingly minor.” In the end, as eye-catching as it is, Ghost in the Shell just doesn’t manage to give enough depth to its characters and storyline.


Best quotes from the reviews:

“A case, if you will, of it being so preoccupied with the shell, it forgot to bring enough ghost.” – Dan Jolin, Empire

“The movie is as much of a hybrid as its lead character. It combines high-minded postmodern philosophising with very generic, often very banal, thriller elements.” – Geoffrey Macnab