My Ghost in the Shell Experience
My husband and I caught the last full show of Ghost in the Shell last Tuesday, April 4, at Centrio Cinema. Despite the fact that the movie has received a lot of negative reviews, we were excited about what we were about to see. We, my husband most especially, have been waiting for GiTS to come out ever since we heard it was going to be shown on the big screen. To prepare ourselves, we watched the original version two nights before we went to the cinema. We weren't disappointed. I mean, the movie was definitely not perfect, but it was good.
Ghost in the Shell is based on Masamune Shirow's Japanese manga of the same title. Its story is set in the future, when robots have become more dominant than humans. The central character is Mira Killian (Scarlett Johansson), survivor of a brutal cyberattack that killed her parents. She becomes the test subject of Hanka Robotics, which was in the process of creating a shell or a mechanical body equipped with a human brain. The idea was to supplement humans with cybernetics so that their vision, intelligence, and strength (among others) are elevated to a whole new level. Killian becomes the model for this experiment and she becomes a cyborg with a human brain and conscience. She becomes a powerful weapon against cyberterrorists.
One year later, Killian, now known as Major, joins forces with Batou (Pilau Asbæk) and Togusa (Chin Han) in solving the cybermystery involving hackers taking control of the minds of people. The three work under the guidance (and command) of Daisuke Aramaki (Takeshi Kitano), chief of Section 9. In the process of putting a stop to the mind hackers, Major rediscovers her past. While she does succeed (with repercussions) in her mission, what she learns about herself affects her greatly.
To find out more about Major's past, as well as how she defeated the cyberterrorists, you will have to watch the movie. You'll have fun trying to unravel the mystery of Killain's true identity. Yes, there are clues along the way, but finding out what really happened will be interesting.
Humans and Technology
One of the things that intrigued me about Ghost in the Shell is the idea of humans and robots integrated in one body. What happens to the human minds? What becomes of her emotions? What separates humans from cyborgs? And where do we draw the line between humanity and technology? These questions are exactly what the movie tries to answer by focusing on the human story of Major. It does not present clear cut answers, but you'll come up with some realizations as the story moves along.
I know that some people complained about the movie somewhat deviated from the ideas or themes highlighted in the 1995 anime, I am still satisfied with what the 2017 version's story made me do. It made me think about how much of our human selves are left considering how technology has managed to invade our lives. Am I still 100% human or have I allowed technology to dictate who I should be and how my life should turn out? If I am able to ask myself questions like this, I know that a movie has made a strong impact on me.
One of the things I like about this movie is the visual effects. Everything just looked so seamless. Even the tiniest detail managed to blow me away. Just a few minutes into the story and you'll already feel like you're in a totally different world. I felt like I was surrounded by a myriad of digital images and robots. I felt like I was also flying, falling freely like the way Major does all the time.
The scenes are so visually stunning that I often had to pinch myself as I thought everything was happening just a few feet away from me (and no, we did not watch in 3D!).
The Direction and Scar-Jo
Director Rupert Sanders knows how to tell a story. He knows that stories need to be visually appealing. Likewise, he also knows that; to effectively deliver their message, stories have to be quiet once in awhile. For me, this is one of the things that makes Ghost in the Shell work. It gives its viewers time to digest what's happening, especially in the scenes where Major contemplates on her previous life. My favorite scene is probably one of the most poignant in the movie; the one where Major visits a widowed mother.
Despite the controversy surrounding her, Scar-Jo interprets her character extremely well. At some point, you'll find yourself asking the question, "Has she really transformed into a shell? A robot?" There are some shots where she looks like a cyborg. Her facial expressions are spot on and even the way she moves is different. You can actually see her transformation. And she does well in her action scenes, too.
Of course, Scar-Jo gets reliable support from the other actors, especially Asbæk and Kitano.
I said earlier that Ghost in the Shell is not perfect. Yes, it is not. It has some flaws, too. The most significant one is that it gets a bit dragging in some parts. This happens somewhere in the denouement, right before the movie wraps up. But this doesn't mean that the whole story is boring; because it is not. It is far from being that. In fact, it's an exciting one, especially when you think about the possibility of humans being dominated by robots.
Anyway, another flaw of the movie is that it does not provide clear answers to some of the questions you'll find yourself asking in the course of the film. But then maybe it's not really meant to answer them for us. Maybe we're meant to discover the answers ourselves, like the way Major unearthed the truths of her past.
To summarize my take on the 2017 version of Ghost in the Shell, I'd like to quote what Scott Mendelson of Forbes said about the movie:
"Like the 1995 animated film on which it is based (I cannot speak to the literary source material), it is a meditative and almost soft-spoken meditation on how much humanity remains when our physical parts are no longer ours or even organic."
Also, if you love procedurals like I do, you are definitely going to love this movie!
The screenplay for Ghost in the Shell was written by Jamie Moss, William Wheeler, and Ehren Kruger. Produced by Avi Arad, Ari Arad, Steven Paul, and Michael Costigan, the movie also stars Michael Pitt (Hideo Kuze), Peter Ferdinando (Cutter), and Juliette Binoche (Dr. Ouelet). It is rated PG (Parental Guidance) by the MTRCB. Running time is one hour and 58 minutes.
(Photo credit: http://www.wallpapermade.com/wallpaper/7190/ghost-in-the-shell-2017-movie-poster-scarlett-johansson/)