Ghost in the Shell is a decent movie. It is an origin story of the character Major played by Scarlett Johansson. Essentially it is about how she became who she is and what motivates her. I have been spoiled by the Marvel Universe movies that have given us origin stories that provided necessary information for a bigger story in the future. This allowed them to go deeper into characters. Another Ghost in the Shell movie is not currently planned, so the origin story is not too in depth Therefore, I only found it to be merely a decent movie.
The only character we really get to know is Major. The other characters are just straw men serving their role in moving the story forward. I would have liked to have gotten to know Batou played by Pilou Asbaek better. As Major's partner, this character had the most potential for showing us some humanity in the film. I didn’t get any background information or ounce of personality from the character Han (not a character in the 1995 Anime movie), played by Chin Han, at all. I got the sense that he was an integral member of the team, but he just seemed to stand around a lot.
The story makes a feeble attempt to show us a relationship between Dr. Ouelet and Major but even that felt brushed over. The movie does spend a bit of time with Kuze played by Michael Pitt. I never really liked him or got to know him beyond his personal motivation for violence. These weakly developed characters are the only things that tether Major to that world.
The movie excelled at creating the world Major inhabited. I have not seen any of the anime films or associated television series, so I do not know how true to the original story they stayed. It did remind me of films I have seen before such as The Matrix, Fifth Element, and Total Recall. The wires hanging from virtually no where and the dark dingy spaces flooded with water reminds us that the more they focus on the inside the more the outside seems to crumble. That was contrasted with beautiful skylines punctuated with giant projections of people acting as ads above the city.
I debated about seeing this movie because there is some controversy around Scarlett Johansson being chosen for the lead role. Not being familiar with the original content, in the end I decided that since the ticket was free, I wasn’t necessarily supporting the film. I certainly understand and even commend others who choose to avoid films that cast white actors in roles that were not meant for them.
Spoilers ahead. Stop reading now if you don’t want to know plot details.
I wondered how Rupert Sanders who directed the film would reconcile the white washing and to my surprise he chose irony. In the film the “shell” or robot exteriors that housed Major's brain did not look like she did. When we see flashbacks of her before they removed her brain or her “ghost;" she was Asian. Somehow this made sense to me because the people who were initiating these experiments were all white in the film. I guess if they were going to play God, they would probably make their creations in their own image.
The action sequences and the special effects were also just okay. In the end my recommendation is to watch this one at home.