Remaking a classic is always a dangerous game – and Ghost In The Shell certainly came in for plenty of criticism before it had even dropped a trailer.
For those of you (like me) that haven’t seen the 1995 British-Japanese science fiction anime original, it is something of a cult classic with a 96 per cent rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
In short, it’s popular with the kind of people that make a lot of noise online, so the bar was always stacked against director Rupert Sanders (Snow White and the Huntsman).
Casting the excellent Scarlett Johansson and not a Japanese actress as lead character Major certainly raised a few eyebrows, but she has the gravitas to bring this big screen version of Ghost In The Shell to life.
We meet her in a pretty chilling opening sequence where her brain is being removed from a human body and inserted into a cyborg ‘shell’, before fast-forwarding a year to find the hybrid operative as a member of the government-run group ‘Section 9’.
During the mission, she encounters a terrorist hacker called Kuze (Michael Pitt) and soon begins to develop mind glitches – which point to a bigger mystery surrounding her own ‘creation’.
Flanked by friend and team-mate Batou (Pilou Asbæk) – as well as fellow Section 9 members Aramaki (Beat Takeshi), Togusa (Chin Han) and Ladriya (Danusia Samal) – they must hunt Kuze and stop what turns into a systematic murdering spree.
At the same time, Major dives deeper into her own story and discovers that her target may know more about her past then she does.
The film plays out in an absolutely gorgeous environment, which is essentially a Neo-Tokyo.
The world building is as good as you’ll see in any film, with the chief highlight being the massive CG ads which pop off the buildings and dominate the landscape.
It’s the kind of thing you could imagine happening in the not too distant future and really helps Ghost In The Shell stand-out.
The plot is, of course, quite complicated – despite Sanders’ best efforts to explain in Layman’s terms.
I enjoyed Major’s arc, even if elements of her journey did feel a little rushed.
Johansson, as always, is stellar in the main role. Her movements make her stand out from her human team-mates, while the cloaking technology she’s able to use looks incredible.
This is an all-business version of Johansson’s go-to ‘bad ass’ character and really made me want to see Marvel sanction a Black Widow film.
Around her, Pitt’s Kuze proves a great foil for the Major. He’s messed up beyond belief, but you’ll discover that there’s a very good reason for his wicked ways.
Also impressive is Asbæk’s Batou, whose charisma really lights up what is an otherwise very serious film.
As I’ve not seen the original, I can’t compare the two. But what I will say is that Ghost In The Shell feels like the first film in a franchise.
It sets up a brilliant world with interesting characters, but does lack a genuinely satisfying conclusion. Yes, there is a very decent final showdown, but I felt like I wanted to know more.
With that in mind, i’d certainly be up for seeing a sequel, especially with Johnasson involved.
But as a stand-alone sci-fi offering, Ghost In The Shell succeeds without ever realising its full potential.
Voice Verdict: 7.5/10 (reviewed at Boston’s West End Cinema)
+ Amazing world building
+ Johansson on good form
+ Interesting plot
– Could have been so much better
Boston’s West End Cinema (Fri, April 7 to Thurs, April 13)
**FAST AND FURIOUS 8 (12A)
12.20pm (Wed/Thurs), 5.20pm (Wed/Thurs), 8.30pm (Wed/Thurs)
**GOING IN STYLE (12A)
4.15pm (daily), 6.30pm (not Tues), 8.45pm (daily)
**PEPPA PIG: MY FIRST CINEMA EXPERIENCE (U)
10am (daily), noon (daily), 2pm (daily)
THE BOSS BABY (U)
2D – 10am (daily), 2.40pm (daily), 6pm (daily), 8.30pm (daily)
3D – 12.20pm (daily), 4pm (daily)
SMURFS: THE LOST VILLAGE (U)
2D – am (not Thurs), noon (not Thurs), 2.10pm (daily)
GHOST IN THE SHELL (12A)
2D – 12.40pm (not Sun/Wed/Thurs), 8.45pm (daily)
3D – 6.20pm (daily)
POWER RANGERS (12A)
12.40pm (Sun), 3.20pm (not Sun), 6pm (Fri/Sat/Mon)
BEAUTY AND THE BEAST (PG)
2D – 11am (not Wed), 2.15pm (daily), 5.20pm (daily), 8.20pm (daily)
KONG: SKULL ISLAND (12A)
2D – 8.40pm (not Tues/Wed/Thurs)
Daily 10.15am – Storks 2D (U)
Wed 11.30 – Ghost in the Shell 2D (12A)
Tues 6.30pm – Going in Style (12A)
**FREE LIST SUSPENDED