Projections - Movie Reviews
With Jim Sabatini

Ghost in the Shell

Ghost in the Shell
Scarlett Johansson, Pilou Asback, Takeshi Kitano and Julianne Binoche

Rated: PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence, suggestive content and some disturbing images.
Reviewed by: Jim  
Release date: March 31, 2017 Released by: Paramount Pictures Corporation

A flashy, surging sci-fi actioner starring lithesome, newly single Scarlett Johansson (Under The Skin, Lucy) is hardly in the same class as its over two-decade old Japanese anime predecessor.

The beguiling, fetching actress has a lot going for her in her silicone costume in this new foray by Rupert Sanders (Snow White and the Huntsman) especially in 3D and large-formatted screens. The influences of its philosophical, provocative progenitor aren't evident as much with a needed elegant simplicity. The helmer's stylings tailored to its score, design, and lensing allow for cityscapes to flourish as many will be reminded of scenes of replicants from Blade Runner and the indestructible 'suits' from The Matrix.

An origin story that could lead to a franchise isn't that inviting as notions of self-discovery and identity come into play. But, Sanders and his writing team, including Ehren Krueger can't make it decisively riveting with all of the firepower (not so futuristic) like what was done not so long ago as in the more reflexive and captivating Ex Machina with Alicia Vikander given the circumstances of a "captivity."

Johansson's The Major is transformed (in a way that gives the film its name) from refugee Mina who lost her parents in a drowning from an attack to a Terminatrix of sorts, a cybernetic force who gets to partner up with Bastou (a decent Pilou Asback) against terrorism plaguing humans, 'enhanced' humans and cyborgs. 'Beat' Takeshi Kitano (known for his spry efforts in the Yakuza genre) also impresses in scene-stealing fashion as the security team's boss (of a nefarious corporate entity) Armaki often behind a desk. Julianne Binoche (Godzilla) expresses some warmth in a lesser turn as the surgeon key to The Major's new composition.

The eye-candy can be exhilarating, notably for the gender-bending demographic, but discerning viewers will see beyond the set-pieces and their nifty accoutrements. Like when a geisha bot goes wild at a conference or bullets spraying around The Major who has the moxie, but not the needed flexibility of a 'Trinity' from The Wachowskis' aforementioned ground-breaker.

The casting is decent enough with Johansson doing what she can with what's allotted to her as something striking goes right to her digital core. Michael Pitt as antagonist Kuze doesn't generate the same kind of interest as the 'Puppet Master' (for those fans of Masamune Shirow's manga classic) though his instinctive deadly interloper has some interesting exchanges with The Major. The extent to polish a production to reveal the marvels of modern technology just doesn't let character and storytelling enter into what is a shell of its original Ghost.

  Frank Chris Jim Dave Gerry Matt Claudette Jennifer Audralee  Avg. 
Ghost in the Shell  C      C   D      B   C-         C 

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