I was not assigned to review “Ghost in the Shell” but I went to the all-media press screening for it anyway.
I liked it.
Bottom line: I liked it, and if you like weird sci-fi and drowning in a swirl of bold, beautiful imagery, I recommend buying a ticket and seeing it at a good theater. (Not the AMC at Kip’s Bay which had the masking wrong, cropping some of the subtitles.)
I found the plot completely incomprehensible, but that’s my memory of the original, too. My enjoyment of this film was entirely on the surface but that is not necessarily a bad thing. We need pretty things to look at and this movie has that to the nth degree. Truly, I liked the movie.
But the whitewashing is 100% screwed up.
“Ghost in the Shell,” after “Akira,” is the most famous anime ever made. (For adults. Not “Voltron” or “Battle of the Planets” or that “Dragonball” jazz the kids talk about.) The main character is a robot (a shell, if you will) and you can make all the post-human and post-racial arguments you want, but those arguments are founded on bullshit. The movie is Japanese, the character is Japanese.
I like Scarlett Johansson a great deal. From “Ghost World” to “Under the Skin” she’s dynamite. Have you seen “Scoop”? She’s great in “Scoop.”
She’s terrible in this. A snooze. She’s a vessel for a tight outfit. (A shell, if you will.) You can argue that, well, she’s a blank slate, she’s supposed to be vacant. That argument is founded on bullshit. I’m telling you, I love her, and she adds nothing to this movie.
Director Rupert Sanders, who shows visual flair in abundance, can’t direct young women actors. His last movie, “Snow White and the Huntsman,” had me convinced that Kristen Stewart should retire. Oh, thank God she didn’t listen to me, as her post-SWATH career is one of the most exciting in the current cinema.
So here’s the thing: they had to cast a White Chick for monetary reasons, right? I say, again, this is an argument founded on bullshit.
Decades ago big motion pictures would have a title card that read “And introducing.” Like, I dunno, Peter O’Toole in “Lawrence of Arabia.” How is it that we live in a world with no borders (and where very expensive movies can recoup on Asian markets alone) and we can’t have a “Ghost in the Shell” that introduces some new Japanese star?
The draw for this movie is not Scarlett Johansson. It is the brand name of the title and it is the look of the film. (Again, bravo to Sanders and everyone on the production design team. You all did great.) You can still cut a great TV ad without ScarJo in this. Imagine the good will of using this internationally-known property to deliver us a new worldwide star.
And here’s the best part: she doesn’t even need to be talented! All Scarlett does in this movie is jump around athletically, pout, look quizzical and wear skin-tight clothes! Is there no young woman in Japan who is lithe and buxom and wants to be in front of a camera?
Now that that’s settled, let’s talk about objectification of women in cinema ….