Movie Review: Ghost in the Shell

*No spoilers*

Ghost in the Shell? Ok, but just don’t dwell on the details. This movie, with its stunning visuals and philosophical musings ultimately left me feeling satisfied, but a little wary about the kind of world its creators were painting for the audience. In this review, I will be highlighting the areas in which GITS succeeds, but ultimately what makes it fall short of greatness.

In its setting and character interactions, the movie reveals details about the effects of Cybernetics on a futuristic society. It shows us how the world could turn out when we go overboard applying new technologies to enhancing human abilities. People in this city have cybernetic implants for improving their sight or raising their alcohol tolerance levels. The movie has a pleasing digitized neon aesthetic, calling to mind video games like Mirror’s Edge, and movies like Blade Runner. Scattered throughout the high-tech city are enormous 3D hologram projections, advertising all manner of products and services. From the cursory glimpses at these ads, I could identify some for Gyms, Tech companies, and even a Mosque. These thoughtful little touches do a good job anchoring the movie in a believable future.

GITS shows that despite the dramatic overhaul in the aesthetic of its cities, humanity hasn’t really changed much. On street level, neglected back alleys abound, with stray dogs wandering about. As with any new technology, some people are quick to take advantage of the market. There are hints of a black market of Cybernetics throughout the movie, with people out on the streets offering cheap enhancements much like weed dealers on the streets of today’s cities. What’s more, the desire to weaponize these advancements are all too clear in the plot, and the villain’s intentions. The movie hinges on this premise to bring about the internal and external conflicts the main character faces, such as the importance of memory in determining the self, over the actions one makes in each present moment.

However, where GITS fails is in not exploring its more universal themes in depth. What is truly infuriating is that its strongest point about finding oneself in an increasingly interconnected world is disrupted by the lack of links between its simultaneous messages about the evils of the power elite, and the existence of a more inclusive society. The point of the film is completely lost in the movie’s attempt to juggle all these dilemmas of humanity. I suspect this arises from the desire to create a film that depicts a possible future, while also addressing the current issues we face today. Thus, the story doesn’t quite gel together at the end, where answers to questions posed in the film don’t feel fully answered.

To add insult to injury, the details of the film tout that a cybernetically enhanced future will somehow be free from discrimination against different genders, sexuality, race or religion. Characters are seen using uni-gender toilets, and there is a scene explicitly depicting the homosexual tendencies of the film’s protagonist (not fully shown in Singapore for… reasons). On top of that, the movie emphasizes the idea of consent, being that characters are always asked for before any changes to their cybernetics are made. This sounds peachy, doesn’t it? That despite the evident hardships of this future, we have at least made a stride in one direction. But the film’s inclusion of these aspects of society give it a political leaning that I found irrelevant to the main plot, serving a sort of tokenism that panders to more liberal-minded audiences.

Furthermore, the apparent message of a harmonious, multicultural, multilingual society created by the film’s backdrops, such as an advert for a mosque featuring a large hologram of a woman in a hijab, playing along side an Adidas-like fitness hologram ad, feels awkward and almost frustrating, because the message of diversity and acceptance is counteracted by a white actress, Scarlett Johansson,  playing an obviously Japanese character. What’s worse, is that the movie completely acknowledges this fact, firstly in the makeup, and then in the fact that Johansson’s character meets a relative who is played by a Japanese actor. SO THE ENTIRE MESSAGE OF DIVERSITY IS TAINTED, by this casting decision [Ed. on the other hand, it could also suggest that there is so much genetic diversity that even close family members carry strong traits of very mixed heritage]. What’s even more abysmal is that this was done for box office numbers, showing Hollywood’s stance on what qualifies as acceptable in the industry.

Phew, rant over. So, despite these glaring issues, the aesthetics and the at least noticeable plot-point about self-discovery, succeed in making the film something that’s trying to be different. For the strength of these parts, I feel as though I’ve got my money’s worth, at least.

Overall, my movie companions, Konyo69 and Misterdonger, and I rate the film 6.5/10

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