Based on the iconic Japanese manga of the same name, Ghost in The Shell arrives with a lot of hype and even greater expectations. However, the end result is a bit uneven.
The best thing about Rupert Sanders’ sci-fi romp are its gorgeous visuals. Every frame is bursting with color and packed with incredible detail. That’s the beauty of a film like this: no matter how boring or generic the plot gets, there’s always something dazzling to look at. But is that enough?
The story of a cyborg supersoldier with vague memories of her past, Shell‘s script is efficient in introducing its characters and its world. However, its exploration of its lead character’s psyche feels a bit superficial and basic; in fact, the film doesn’t dive nearly as deep as I would have liked. Our protagonist’s journey definitely feels like it’s missing some key emotional beats that would have given it the gravitas it deserves. It doesn’t help that the enhanced supersoldier shtick has been done countless times before at this point (even if the original iteration of this story came first). Aside from some cool visuals, there’s nothing particularly fresh with regards to the narrative or the dialogue (which gets pretty clunky at times).
There was a lot of controversy in recent months with regards to Scarlett Johansson being cast in a Japanese role (“whitewashing” as they call it). While it’s certainly an odd piece of casting, it’s not what makes Scarlett’s performance underwhelming. Much like her stoic turn in 2014’s Lucy, it’s hard to get too invested in her character’s plight when she’s supposed to be an emotionless cipher. Yes she looks great in that almost-nude bodysuit, and she’s more than adept in all the action scenes (she’s had a lot of practice after all as Black Widow), but her performance leaves a lot to be desired. Juliette Binoche (and the rest of the cast) do a fine job in their supporting roles, but they aren’t given nearly enough screen-time or weighty material to sink their teeth into. It’s all Scarlett, and she’s not enough to keep this whole thing afloat.
Eye-popping visuals and a brisk running time make Ghost in the Shell an entertaining diversion, but this film is far from a game-changer.