★★★★ – “Smart, Cool and Refreshingly Enjoyable.”

Ghost in the Shell is directed by Rupert Sanders and stars Scarlett Johansson, Pilou Asbæk, Takeshi Kitano, Juliette Binoche, Michael Pitt, Chin Han, Danusia Samal and Peter Ferdinando.

In the near future, Major is the first of her kind: A human saved from a terrible crash, who is cyber-enhanced to be a perfect soldier devoted to stopping the world’s most dangerous criminals.

There was controversy. There were expectations. For me, these expectations were high. The original 1995 Ghost in the Shell anime had layer upon layer of subliminal meaning in its vast imagery and storytelling. Its themes were explored deeply, and gained a cult following momentously. Rupert Sanders has delivered a visually outstanding instalment to the franchise. Although a soft reboot/reimagining of the original, GITS stands on its own.

Even if some of the Ghost (or Soul) from the anime is lost, the Shell is incredibly vibrant. The cinematography is stunning, jam-packed with a colourful visual design and intricate sets, recreating the familiar feeling of the original material. Something that worried me going into this film was that it would avoid Major’s drive to discover who/what she is, and turn it into an action-packed thrill ride with no meaning. However, to my delight, this did not happen. In fact, the story drifts from the original and twists our expectations. It’s smart, cool and refreshingly enjoyable.

Scarlett Johansson was cast with heated discussion amongst fans, but I believe she has done a wonderful job with this role. She clicks with this world perfectly, in my eyes. Pilou Asbæk as Batou is well-cast, also. Both work together nicely with great chemistry. Binoche, Kitano, Ferdinando and everyone else involved are so very natural in the setting. Some of the set pieces look and perform great, though surprisingly cut-down to ensure the story stays focused on Major.

Clint Mansell & Lorne Balfe utilise snippets from Kenji Kawai’s original theme as a respectful nod, then progress forward with a synth-heavy score that weaves so beautifully with the picture. Subtle but important. It’s an impressive ambience that fills the atmosphere presented in the film.

Ghost in the Shell is not for everyone, but like the original, I do think everyone should try it. It’s not going to rake in a huge amount of money in its theatrical run, but don’t take that as a bad sign. The only thing I’d like to see is an uncut version; it feels like it was toned down for a wider audience. That said, I’m absolutely interested in seeing a sequel or two to further expand upon the story of Major & Batou.

Verdict; Impressive visual effects, smart storytelling and interesting characters make Ghost in the Shell an energetic and entertaining experience.

Ghost in the Shell – ★★★★ (8/10)


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