Ghost in The Shell (2017) Review: Watered-Down Version

In its attempt to continue milking the foreign market, Hollywood is capitalizing on properties to catch the attention of viewers from Asia. So here we are, another classic masterpiece run through studio processing.

The results do look good. The landscape in this live-action version of Ghost in The Shell benefit from today’s cutting edge visual effects.  Gigantic holograms and neon signs dominate the skyline while a crowded Japanese city teeming with cyber-enhanced humans sprawl below.

Imagine Tokyo existing in the same timeline as Los Angeles in Blade Runner, with boxy 80’s cars directed by pixelated arrow signs in the street. The detailing is also applied to the costume, set design, and practical effects. The visuals are complemented with dark cinematography.

The cast is good enough acting-wise. Scarlett Johannsson plays a convincing robot. In a perfect world, we would have Rinko Kikuchi but obviously, the studio prefers a bankable actress that can pander to white audiences.

All of these elements make this live version Ghost in The Shell serviceable enough as passing entertainment. But this adaptation is stripped off of the philosophical and existential themes that made its source material a masterpiece.

Sanders functions as a director for hire here, copying recognizable moments from the animated movies while ticking the studio’s checklist – eye-candy visuals, a bankable actress in a sexy suit, perfunctory action scenes, and a watered-down narrative that can appeal to anyone 13 and up.

The narrative focuses on a generic corporate conspiracy plot tied to a problematic origins story.

Without exploring the source material’s core themes of identity and humanity, this backstory becomes a convenient plot device to justify the casting of Scarlett Johannsson and a condescending fix to address the whitewashing accusations. The rest of the characters are caricature sketches of their original counterparts.

Practically speaking this is a Hollywood adaptation so you can’t expect depth. At the end of the day its a profit-driven venture that doesn’t care about articles, blog posts, and online commenters arguing about its casting choices.

The movie neatly wraps up with the predictable sellout ending. Essentially, this first installment is an introduction to the Major and the establishment of Scarlett Johannsson in the role.

This also turned the whole movie into a generic birth of a hero story complete with a stereotypical warmongering villain. If you haven’t watched any of the series or animated movies and don’t want to read subtitles, then you’re in for a serviceable cyberpunk action movie.

Overall, Ghost in The Shell is a well-rendered eye-popping live-action version, but its a shadow of the source material in a disposable glossy shell.

Ghost in The Shell (2017)


Ghost in The Shell is a watered-down Hollywoodized live-action adaptation that turns an iconic anime into a standard cyberpunk action movie.

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