If you have seen my blog you can tell that I like Masamume Shirow’s Ghost In The Shell series. Actually, I like Shirow’s work. I also like the original Ghost In The Shell movie, the second movie, the TV series and the original manga and the subsequent follow up manga. So when I heard that Spielberg was making a live action version, I was a bit ecstatic. I didn’t get a chance to see it in the theatres and I just got the DVD.
I knew that most reviews said that the movie was bad. I had seen some of the Weta artistry that went into the movie and I was prepared to believe that they were wrong. I just saw the opening sequence and the reviews were right. This movie is not a good one.
Artisically the movie works. The scene setting is wonderful and the action great. The first few minutes should seemingly be what you expect from Ghost In The Shell, Good guys and bad guys shooting it out in a high tech setting. Except that they blow it. the Major in Ghost would never go in without a setup as lone wolf. In every version of Ghost, Major Kusanagi was string leader who expected that her team would back up as professional and not as people who would show up after everything was over to make quips and remark that the major was injured. That is just not the Batou that I know. Characterization for this should not have been hard. There is hundreds of pages of manga, Two movies, at least, Two TV series and probably some other material that establish what the characters are like.
Then there is the mad scientist and evil businessman of Hanka Technologies. Just once, could Hollywood not look in a mirror and not believe that every business is a reflection of the way they operate in Hollywood. Didn’t they bother to read the manga. In the manga the corrupt own of Hanka was a box that smoked who had robot sex dolls that dropped him in the drink when he was trying to escape. The whole thing was funny except for what Haka was doing to kids. Look, if you wanted to point out evils there is a lot in ghost for materials.
Then there was making Section 9 diverse for the sake of diversity. There were all those screams about Scarlett Johansen playing the major because she wasn’t Japanese, yet at least she looked the part. The rest of team not so much.
Here’s what the team should look like.
By and large they got the characterization right, except for the addition of that black woman that to my knowledge has never appeared in any of the manga, movies, or TV series.
But the addition section nine team member is a side issue. What kills this movie is the writing. I suspect that the writers used the Oshii movies as source material. That’s Ok if your Oshii and have deft hand with the material. but Oshii at least understood the basi material, though Innocence went a bit off the deep end. What I can’t understand is that they didn’t seem to go back to the original source material and read the manga. For that matter they seem to have ignored the first movie and pulled far too much from Innocence, which is perhaps the weakest of the tv series or movies and some things from the second anime tv series. The problem is that by emphasizing Hanka and making the Major a puppet, they lost a lot of the humanity that makes the Major’s character work. In the all the other manga and films. The major is a consummate tough professional, very tough professional who is nobody’s fool and very good both in cyberspace and with a gun. The major in the manga would give Stark hives. The Major here needs a shrink because she has mental glitches. That isn’t the major as an effective leader and that is why the movie fails. The writers should have lost the dogs and found the Tachikomas.
Here’s the original opening scene.
It works. We see Section Nine right off the bat as professional, dangerous and doing dirty work that require deniability. In just a few minutes the scene establishes the characters and gives us a glimpse into the world.
Here’s the movie.
It doesn’t help that the move has spent the time up to this point destructing the Major’s competence as a leader and then has her going in as a lone wolf cowboy and the rest of the team not making any kind of contribution and the supposedly clandestine Section nine as clandestine as a ticker tape parade. The scene doesn’t work. In fact the Movie doesn’t work. It spends so much time on the tired clichés of Hollywood and can’t seem to get the point of the original material. The editing in the opening scene was terrible and the film is overloaded with cybernetic garbage in all the street scenes that make no sense. The movie fails in it’s effort to draw us into the world and that is sad.
The world of ghost in the shell is rich and complicated with characters that are sometimes morally ambiguous, but totally human. The people that made this movie had the chance to make something great. I’m not a heavily paid screenwriter, but I’m sure that I know the material enough to have made it work. The dialogue here is terrible and dehumanizing the Major is missing the point. In the end all that is left is a bunch of tired clichés, political correctness and stilted and humorless dialog so badly edited that even when somebody has a basic idea of what is supposed to be going on, the movie makes no sense.
Many media articles say that the the whitewashing controversy.
‘Ghost In The Shell’ Will Lose $60 Million-Plus: Here’s Why
I wish that that had been the case and that Ghost In The Shell was a good movie sabotaged by controversy. Instead it is perfect example of what happens when good material is handed to people that don’t care about it, don’t understand it and are so afraid that they may offend somebody that all they produce is a bland dull piece of drek that shows how to spend 110 million without really trying.