RATING: 3 out of 5
Before I say anything else about the film, let it be known that I have never seen the anime version of “Ghost in the Shell” kasi noong 1995 busy pa akong manuod ng Dragon Ball Z tsaka Ghostfighter. As I grew older, I just never got around to watching it kasi hindi na ko nanuod ng anime dahil napamahal na ako sa basketball. (Kahit hanggang ngayon hindi naman niya ko minamahal pabalik.) But I’m guessing it has to be good since they wouldn’t be doing a live-action version of it, right? Kaya hindi ko alam kung nasunod niya yung look and feel nung anime or kung anong naiba sa kuwento. I’m only going to judge “Ghost in the Shell” based on what I’ve seen from the 2017 version of it.
“Ghost in the Shell” is set in the not so distant future in a seemingly Asian metropolis. I say “seemingly” because we’re never really told which city the story takes place. But imagine Hong Kong or Tokyo on steroids and you’ll get an idea how the setting of the movie looks like. In this version of the future, nose jobs and liposuction are a thing of the past. Instead, you can get a cyber enhancement for almost anything and everything. Scarlet Johansson is Major, a cyber-enhanced super soldier developed by a tech company called Hanka Corporation. Her purpose? To stop the world’s deadliest terrorists along with an elite team of soldiers that compose the group called Section 9.
When terrorists developed the ability to hack into people’s minds and control them, Major is uniquely qualified to stop them. But she soon realizes that not everything she’s been told about her past is true. Instead of her life being saved, it has actually been stolen by the same company that has made her into the ultimate killing machine.
The first thing you’ll notice about “Ghost in the Shell” is how freaking gorgeous everything looks. I don’t know how “New Port City” from the anime version looks like, but the city in the movie version looks like a cross between New York City from “The Fifth Element” and the Los Angeles from Ridley Scott’s “Blade Runner”. Credit should go to the team behind it for being able to construct a city that looks absolutely amazing. Even if you end up not liking the movie, you’ll still come away impressed by what your eyes just feasted on.
But as beautiful as this city looks, it falls short from what we’ve seen in movies like “The Fifth Element” and “Blade Runner” is that it somehow doesn’t feel as alive as the other two. It may have something to do with the fact that the characters in the movie don’t get to interact with the environment as much. There are scenes in “Blade Runner” where Harrison Ford orders noodles from a food stall in the middle of the rain. From that scene alone, you get a feel of how life is like in that setting. How can you do a scene like that for a cyborg like the Major? It’s just a small thing pero mas feel mo na immersed ka dun sa mundo nila.
The plot shares some similarities with the Bourne series and the Wolverine trilogy (lab-grown killing machines who are out to investigate their origins) so you can’t say that it’s original. It’s pretty straightforward and easy enough to follow but it doesn’t really delve deeper into themes like existentialism which the anime supposedly did. The action scenes are what you would expect from your run-of-the-mill modern action movie and you wouldn’t exactly consider them memorable. There’s nothing about it that will make you say “Putek naalala mo yung eksena na yun? Ang galing nun ah!” when you leave the movie house.
There’s been an issue regarding the supposed “whitewashing” of the movie when they got Scarlet Johansson to play a role that everyone assumed was Japanese given the source material. The movie addresses this issue in the latter parts of the story although somewhat inadequately. It does explain why the Major is not Asian, sure. But it doesn’t explain why she has to be a good-looking Caucasian.
Truth be told, “Ghost in the Shell” might have been mediocre if not for the gorgeous setting. Though the aesthetic makes up for some of the things the movie lacks in terms of substance and spirit, it gives you a feeling that the movie could have been great if the filmmakers focused on developing the story and the characters more. It seems like “Ghost in the Shell” is destined to be one of those movies that you’ll enjoy but you also wouldn’t gush to your friends about. Para siyang contestant sa beauty pageant na hindi magaling sumagot sa Q&A portion. Maganda tingnan pero pakiramdam mo may kulang.
Ghost in the Shell is now out in cinemas everywhere