Ok so Ghost in the Shell got made into a live-action movie….in Hollywood….and for some reason I didn’t know until I saw the option to book tickets for it on Bookmyshow….no clue how that happened. Maybe I don’t haunt the same forums I once used to.
Had heard that Cowboy Bebop was in the works…with Keanu Reeves apparently…but never about this one. So of course, having been a die-hard fan of the overall franchise and of the kick-ass character that Motoko Kusanagi is, I was in two minds about booking tickets for this one. The overall poster looked….ok. Not great but all I could see was Scarlett Johannssen. I like her as an actress but of course she’s not going to look like the animated coolness of the original Motoko.
So, certain things came up in life and I somehow missed booking the tickets entirely. Then I found it online and again kept putting off watching it. Why? Because I didn’t feel like shelling out the money for a Katana….which I would feel obligated to buy….to lop off some heads….if they got it wrong.
Then today happened…I was bored and so decided to up and watch it. It started off promisingly enough, with even faithfulness in the opening sequence toward the scene where white stuff comes off from the cyborg-in-making. But then the white Doctor said her name….I strained to catch it, figuring I was hearing wrong. I let it pass, majorly cause there were more important things to have apoplectic fits over like…why can I see Batou’s eyes? Why is Aramaki speaking only Japanese when everyone else is speaking English? Are we saying that all the characters supposedly living in Japan are still for some reason speaking English (has America colonized Japan? Would certainly explain why their super-elite Section has a white Batou, a black sniper and some weird mysterious-race chick) and only this one old fossil adamantly speaks Japanese. They’ve put in a scene about someone’s daughter ‘learning’/downloading French in five minutes to explain and set context for why everyone can understand him but the question still remains why the hell at-all? Considering appearances are very subjective in that Universe with enhancements etc. we could have just assumed that racial lines have also blurred and they are all still speaking Japanese…much as we suspend that bit while watching a dub. But this means actually highlighting, in big bold letters, the fact that the others are NOT speaking Japanese (again, I need some explanations around this weird colonization).
The old coot is far from being the pretty awesome old guy that the original chief of Section 9 is. Aramaki is diplomatic and flexible where Motoko and her team are often headstrong and impulsive, quite antithetical to an inflexible dude who refuses to speak everyone else’s language. He also reminded me of a sloth. The original Aramaki is smart, crisp, used to giving orders, handling tricky situations and tough as nails. This guy reminded me of the old Master in Kung-fu movies….not the one who actually teaches the hero Kung-Fu but rather the one whom they’ve retired, the Hero’s Master’s Master. He’d be on his deathbed or meditating in a cave somewhere and will show up to give some cryptic, sprawling obvious-to-the-audience advice at the very end. Completely useless guy…that’s him in this film.
Aramaki is not an expendible charater in the orignal GITS but this guy’s absence would have made the movie better and crisper, maybe because then we could have seen more of Motoko’s (refuse to call her Mira) leadership. The film doesn’t even put her in a 50 mile radius of leadership. She does nothing leader-like whatsoever, completely wasting the Major title. Ask someone who doesn’t know the original and they’ll assume she was Batou’s sidekick or something. Anyway….back to Aramaki….after boring you with his Japanese and sleeping through most of his scenes, he wakes up at the end to belatedly attempt some half-hearted gunplay and a random attempt to backup and save the Major.
Speaking of the Major…..Don’t know where to begin. As the movie progressed, I immediately took a dislike to the all-American Batou. He was just….too much happening, too chirpy. Batou is dour, brooding and a rock for the major…but a cool rock. Their chemistry is very subtle, she is his boss in a military-like setup and he respects her, backs her up and watches out for her. But the love interest quotient is largely missing in their equation. The dude in the movie, on the other hand, has her coyly smiling at his dumbass jokes like some in-love teenager.
And that was the problem with her character. I won’t blame Scarlett for that. She did her best and a fab job for a tough role to live up to. The problem was with the characterization and lack of development for her character in general. Major Kusanagi is tough as nails, brilliant, incredibly independent and a war general. She’s a leader to her team and the fact that she’s a woman adds to this, not detracts from it. Mira (yes, they bloody changed her name. I’d love to meet the moron who was responsible for this move. That’s like I make a Superman movie and decide to change his name to Shinchan) is a babe lost in the woods. That’s it.
She needs protection, she needs guidance, she’s brimming with emotions and I was cringing and praying they won’t have her hookup with Batou. I can’t see her leading a corporate employee-engagement team for planning someone’s birthday party, forget a team of seasoned soldiers who look up to the Major with awe. Cause she’s that damn awesome.
There were pluses to the film-it tried to send off nods to the original, stayed pretty true to the visuals and tried to create a megalopolis with a similar feel as the original. But where they lost was probably the fact that they tried to please everyone and incorporate the same ‘vulnerable superhero’ trend we see recently in most Hollywood movies, be it Logan or Avengers or whatever else. But Kusanagi doesn’t work that way. Her political accumen, understanding of situations and the unshakeable Iron Lady facade were completely missing. She was a lost teenager trying to find her past and doing a shit job of it.
Another lag is in terms of the existential issues raised in the film. Ghost in the Shell is a lot more philosophical in its scope. Kusanagi keep questioning the blurred line between her humanity and the fact that her body is 100% cyborg. Her past is done and dusted. I was still pretty ok with the Major finding her old family and being a fundamentalist but she’s too smart to have been a random run-away who gets caught by the government and turned into a confused robot. If she wasn’t who she was and her true self was a fundamentalist then she would probably be someone on the lines of V from V for Vendetta, not hiding in a hovel with some guy she fell for.
At the end of the day, I don’t hate the film but I’m not crazed about it either. A white main character I can still palate if I knock myself over the head enough times but a token black character (Saito?) and a random woman (was he calling her Victoria? Did Ishikawa have a sex change?) don’t make for a great watch either.
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