Movie Review: Ghost in the Shell

After many failed attempts, Hanka Robotics has successfully completed the project, introducing us to Major Mira Killian, played by Scarlett Johansson. Throughout the film, Major embarks on a hunt to find a cyberterrorist capable of both hacking into his victims’ minds and controlling their thoughts or memories. (BagoGames/Flickr Creative Commons)

What is it like to live a life where technology and biology meet to create a new type of existence for humans? What happens when the world becomes so obsessed with the complexity of technology?

Director Rupert Sanders answers these questions in his action-packed film “Ghost in the Shell,” adapted from the 1989 Japanese anime series under the same title.

It is set in the mid-21st century and the majority of human-kind have been scientifically altered through a process of cybernetics, which enhances various traits including vision, strength and intelligence.  The leading company of this project is Hanka Robotics, who are using cybernetics to create something beyond the technological capabilities of A.I. – to place a human brain within the shell of a mechanical body.

After many failed attempts, Hanka Robotics has successfully completed the project, introducing us to Major Mira Killian, played by Scarlett Johansson. Throughout the film, Major embarks on a hunt to find a cyberterrorist capable of both hacking into his victims’ minds and controlling their thoughts or memories. This journey unexpectedly connects her with the past that Hanka Robotics kept from her.

 

The strength of this film was easily the visuals.  From the very moment the film begins, we are immersed in a world of vibrant colors and abstract images.  The city streets of the futuristic Japan resembled the aesthetic of the country as we know it, with a futuristic vibe from the TRON series. Because the characters have been enhanced through cybernetics, they have features of both a human and technological device.  Throughout the film, Major suffers glitches and hits that effect her wiring.  In these moments, we would see Johansson’s image go distorted from the glitches, or when Johansson takes a fatal blow in battle, the distinction between her human-looking face is contrasted with her robotic, and fragmented body.

 

The 2017 adaptation received a 52 percent on metacritic, and I would say this is representative of the film.  Although the acting was nothing short of what I expected from Johansson, and the visuals, from camera-work to set-work, were without a doubt impressive, the film was not outstanding.  I found I was somewhat disappointed in aspects of the film’s plot.  

The plot was simple enough, where someone who is not familiar with the manga series, like myself, could follow it and not need any preceding knowledge.  And while the plot continued to move throughout its entirety, I felt that with Major’s goal being to learn more about her true past the lab had hidden from her, the scenes where she found these moments from her past did not receive the attention it should for the buildup that Sanders created.  Toward the end of the film, Major’s creator gives her a file of her past, and it is not clear as to whether she opens this file, or what she finds within it.  Although we learn that in Major’s previous life she was protesting the take-over of the cyber-world, I felt myself wanting more in terms of this plot point, as well has her meeting her mother.  The reunion with her mother at the end of the film was somewhat anti-climactic considering Hanka Robotics had lied about her and her family dying on a boat ride to Japan in her previous life.

Despite this, I would not cross it off your movie list of 2017.  The plot addresses very real thoughts of our technology-driven world.  It evokes the fears of a cyber world, and presents the haunting possibilities of our near future.


Lucille Littlefield is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at lucille.littlefield@uconn.edu.