Just for clarity, I wrote this review before my review of Lost in Translation, so it should be number 1. But there’s just something satisfying about having Lost in Translation as the first review in on this site.
Visually-captivating and thought-provoking with, Ghost in the Shell serves up a satisfying cinematic experience for the eyes and mind but not the soul. You won’t find yourself pondering the film’s existential and tech-addiction themes as you leave the cinema and immediately become engrossed in the latest Snapchat dog filter. But for the 107 minutes you are in the theater, you’ll be dazzled by the mesmerizing action sequences and neon lights of this cyberpunk futuristic landscape.
This makes Ghost in the Shell, a film adaptation of the classic manga and anime series, satisfying to the eye. The philosophically-engaging story following Major Killan, a super-soldier with a completely artificial body but a completely authentic brain, makes it satisfying to the mind. But it never really finds it soul amidst these Japanese cyberpunk lights. It’s a whole lot of fun, but not necessarily a movie you’ll carry with you, like visiting a museum filled with beautiful, priceless pieces of art, but not being able to remember a single painting after you leave.
Ironically, these themes of memory, identity and authenticity mesh up pretty well with the external controversy surrounding the film’s release. In earlier Ghost in the Shell stories, Killan was Japanese, or rather, both her mind and her body were that of a Japanese woman. In this movie, Killan’s mind is Japanese but her body is that of a Caucasian woman. This presents two intriguing questions: 1. Are race and ethnicity things that are only associated not just with our bodies but with our minds, and 2. What is the point of casting Johansson in this role if the original character was also Japanese?
The short answer to the second question is money. The longer answers to both questions are based on your own interpretations of mind and self, and your thoughts about issues like #OscarsSoWhite and diversity in Hollywood today. What I can say for certain is if you’re like me, a person who has not read the manga or watched the 1995 Ghost in the Shell anime, this movie will inspire you watch the original, even though you’ll probably forget about this shell in the process.