Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Movie Review: GHOST IN THE SHELL (2017) (Review #2)

After being victim of a terrible terrorist attack, Mina (Scarlet Johansson) wakes up in a body that doesn't belong to her (a "shell"). Her brain has been transplanted into a completely synthetic body, making her the first example in human history of her kind. She is then employed by the government to stop the world's most dangerous criminals, one of which starts to arouse an identity crisis in her.

I have never been exposed to this story. I never read the original comic nor have I seen the original anime. My take on this story was completely new and fresh. Whilst the film hasn't left much of an impact on me to further my knowledge on this mythology, it left me fascinated enough by its world to have a decent time in the theater.

Whilst many have defined this film as visually spectacular, I take issue with that definition, especially as it is assigned to this film. Ghost in the Shell has many things going for it, but I guarantee you that the visuals isn't one of those. The editing and cinematography of the picture are quite unfocused and pretty much follow the rhythm of many generic blockbusters. Rupert Sanders might have a great eye for design and world building, but he has a really hard time in deciding when to cut and how to progress through the visual grammar.

The story is pretty derivative (I understand it is an older story, but in modern day there is no fresh update) and many elements in it feel derivative too. Many of the gimmicks employed in the action scenes and the story beats feel very familiar. On top of this familiarity, Sanders builds a film that doesn't have much style to spare. He doesn't have the bravery to hold on certain shots, to cut with thriftiness. The action scenes have no grit or tension to them. They are assembled with generic cuts and slow-mo. There are no breathtaking shots or ingeniously choreographed sequences that make the world built in the film stand out. At no point does the film manage to gather intensity or make realize you are clutching your seat tightly.

Sanders does have a good touch for character but he struggles in giving the feature an original or fresh touch. There is no style applied to the story. Many elements try to come into the picture, but almost none of them manage to have much relevance. The electronic score never manages to find its place, the cyber punk undertones never stick out as interesting, there is no unity to how the sequences are built (each one has a different rhythm and it all ends up feeling like pretty CGI), and it has very random editing.

Fortunately, the packaging of the whole movie overall isn't in anyway terrible or void of interesting ideas. Firstly, the cast is well chosen and whilst the relevant characters are five at best they all manage to stick out and make an impression. They all have a dynamic that's personal to them and that evolves through the film's structure. It also suits that all the actors mold into the world seamlessly and give us performances that manage to make this world's implications and ideas grounded and believable.

The design and art direction of the film also help it incredibly in making an impact on the viewer. As I said before, some of it might be derivative and the references to Blade Runner might be a little too heavy-handed, but there is so much going on and so many characters and places that it is hard not to be somewhat enchanted by them. It helps that the CGI and the practical effects work together beautifully here. Just as in his last feature, Sanders excels in making a polished picture with unnoticeable CGI and solid effects work all around.

Ghost in the Shell sadly fails as a medium to introduce worldwide audiences to anime and manga by not imprinting any style or freshness to the Sci-Fi genre. It favors a traditional and, unfortunately, bland aesthetic in the editing of the picture, but it sure has enough pop to spare for at least making an impression.

James' Score: 5.5/10

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