First things first, March 2017 has been a pretty good month for movies!
Logan got us started, followed by Kong: Skull Island and a peak into the MonsterVerse. . Next Disney gave us the live action Beauty and the Beast which has been getting rave reviews. March also gave us the long awaited return of the Power Rangers to the big screen. It all culminates with the live action Ghost in the Shell and a flashback to the beloved 1995 anime by Mamoru Oshii.
In preparation for Ghost in the Shell, I returned to the 1995 version to have it fresh in my mind. 12 hours later with the philosophical gems of the original still floating around in my mind, I sat in the theater waiting for nostalgia to take over. It did.
Manga vs Anime vs Movie
This will be a very short excerpt as many before me have spent much more time on this and the focus of this review is mainly on the merits of the newly released film. As most critics will attest to, the Manga by Masamune Shirow is infinitely more detailed and character rich than the 1995 anime version. However, this is true with any story in literature that is adapted to film. As nerds everywhere know, the book is almost always better than the movie.
With that being said, the movie I thought was much more detailed than the anime. I would have to go back to the original Manga to compare side by side with the movie, but I would say that the movie did a fantastic job of catching the original essence of the character and story. One thing that fans should take note of, Masamune Shirow was a writer for the 1995 anime as well as the 2017 film. So, he did have a say in what was done with his characters and story. THAT alone should appease any disdain from fans about not staying true to the original source.
The Movie Overall
I will not give away any spoilers in this review. With that being said, I will tell you that it is not exactly the same as the anime version. If you are watching with the expectation of Ghost in the Shell to be an exact translation into film, that is not what you will get. What you do get is a movie with nearly identical scenes at times. Scenes that can be side by side compared and found to be nearly flawless.
On the other hand, the film gave a slightly adapted story-line that leaves the viewer a more detailed background story. I have already read multiple reviews that seem to be slamming this movie for various reasons. Most of the negativity is related to over-hyped loud fight scenes and casting – I am not going to get into the whitewash drama. There are plenty of other places to read if you are interested in those arguments. I am most interested in if this overall was a good movie, did it stay fairly true to the story, and was it enjoyable. The answer to those questions in my opinion are yes, yes, and yes.
What Went Well
I thought that the overall direction of the movie and the adapted story-line went well. For me, the liberties taken provide for a much deeper character analysis of Major Motoko Kusanagi played by Scarlett Johansson and Kuze played by Michael Carmen Pitt. Kuze of course is the films rendition of the anime’s Puppet Master. The cinematics were good. I thought the fight scenes were good, though some have complained about the slow motion at times during the fights. Personally, I thought it looked cool. The water fight scene is nearly identical to the anime as well as the final fight scene.
What Went Wrong
The anime is dreadfully slow at times. However, where it is slow, it makes up for it in deep meaningful thoughts. These are the philosophical gems that I alluded to in my opening paragraph. Lines like, “memory cannot be defined, but it defines mankind” and “There are countless ingredients that make up the human body and mind, like all the components that make up me as an individual with my own personality. Sure I have a face and voice to distinguish myself from others, but my thoughts and memories are unique only to me, and I carry a sense of my own destiny. Each of those things are just a small part of it. I collect information to use in my own way. All of that blends to create a mixture that forms me and gives rise to my conscience.”
These philosophical soliloquies were extremely small in number. When they were utilized during the movie, they were changed. In the film, the statements about memory became something along the lines of “memories do not define us, our actions define us.” I am paraphrasing here, but that line is used multiple times with not much other deep thought to accompany it. The anime, on the other hand, was all about exploring the idea of what makes a person human, what distinguishes individuals from each other, and how far can mankind be stretched until they are no longer human. This film was missing that deep philosophical thought. Alas, that is not and was not the intention of this film.
In conclusion, with all of the good and the bad, I really enjoyed this movie. Obviously Scarlett Johansson is an amazing actress and not hard on the eyes. However, that is not why I liked the movie. I like it because I felt that nostalgic connection back to being a teenager in 1995 watching the anime film with my brother and being enthralled with the thoughtful notions of what makes us human. This film made that connection for me. At the same time, it gave me something new and different as a fan of Ghost in the Shell. It was not the same and that is okay.
The Manga, the Anime, and now the Film all tell a slightly different story. Simultaneously, they are all in some way interested in the exploration of what makes us who are, and what is the meaning of life? That my friends is the deepest question humanity can ask itself.
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– BCON, Editor