Do Asians Dream of Electric Scarjos? – ★★★½
When the Anime version of Ghost in the Shell came out in 1995 based on the Manga series by Masamune Shirow from 1989, we already had Blade Runner (1982) and RoboCop (1987). Since 1995 we’ve had The Matrix trilogy, Minority Report and even “Westworld” on television. Therefore it’s a tough act to ask of our class of 2017 Ghost in the Shell to be original or ground-breaking.
What it does give us is a visual feast adhering to the vision that the future isn’t all clean and shiny but a bit of a kip. People may be technologically enhanced but they still have to exist in an overcrowded decaying world. Major (Scarlett Johansson) is unique, the first human to be combined with a flawless robotic body unrecognisable to most people. The brain of a human, but the body of a robot. The perfect agent or weapon against the modern criminal. When a terrorist starts hacking into people’s memory she is best placed to track the perpetrator down. What she didn’t bargain for is the truth she uncovers along the way.
Johansson is no stranger to the weird robotic types having played an alien in Under The Skin and voicing the operating system in Her. The performance here is closer to Under The Skin showing none of the warmth or friendliness we heard in Her. The role is all about her physicality, the way she clunkily lurches around her environment. If we did not know from the get go that she was not human we would be under no allusion. This jarring or uncomfortable nature in ones own skin is surely a reference to how unsure Major is about her past and very existence,.
The supporting cast is all on point no more so than Takeshi Kitano as Beat, Major’s boss. The caring relationship between Batou and Major is well fleshed out and believable thanks to Pilou Asbaek. Juliette Binoche is the morality of the film, striving for Major to see herself as human and realise her true self, a Frankenstein to Major’s monster you could say.
A niche genre that is becoming harder and harder to break new ground in, means all we ask for is an engaging and enjoyable ride which this iteration of Ghost in the Shell adequately delivers.