Ghost in the Shell (2017)

Visually aesthetic and mind blowing “screenplay” which can send you back to the past! #atmwatchingGITS1995

Ghost in the Shell

Paramount Pictures in association with DreamWorks Pictures, Reliance Entertainment, Arad Productions, Shanghai Film Group and Huahua Media present…

A “woman” in a stretcher is being delivered for a transplant but what we see is not an ordinary procedure! “Hanka” personnel hasten for the operation to take place, the patient who is tagged “2571” will revolutionize the future of amalgamating robotics and augmentation of the human body. So it begins, as the brain carefully leaves her, a cyborg “shell” serves host linking her “ghost” inside the cyberbrain and for the first time “she” breathes…

We do identify the “ghost” on how does it affect the machine while nothing to do with the physical organ particularly the brain, the essence or “consciousness” of a person is still intact somehow with its new prosthetic body. Directed by Rupert Sanders (Snow White and The Huntsman) and produced by Avi Arad and Steven Paul. Based on the best-selling manga created by artist Shirow Masamune in 1989, it follows the story of a dystopic future where humans and machine share a thin line of co-existence. From here, Section 9 of the Japanese government a tactical cyber enhanced unit composed of soldiers, police officers and forensic scientists functioning under full discretion on counter-cyberterrorism, black-ops, special operations and cyber-warfare.

I have been an avid fan of the anime series and the films but how does Hollywood bring to life this cyberpunk world – will find out as we get along in the story. Frankly, I think that the premise was redundant and falls short on the potential of making this a great film. The world of GITS is so vast, writers can actually “deep dive” into the canon then provide a think tank in making an actual script work. First of all, they just copied the opening sequence to which we can identify a robot undergoes transcendence while “humanizing” it in a form of a “white” female human body even the music was not spared. To add another cliché, from GITS (1996) and GITS: Innocence (2004) in the prologue where the Major assassinates a foreign diplomat and for the latter anime film, Batou and Togusa handles the case of a murdered employee while finding out the disappearance of their leader through Batou’s eyes (figuratively). Although, there were some changes made like a Hanka Robotics official being hacked and killed in the live action version on the other hand, LOCUS Solus was the gynoid (sex robot dolls) company that was being investigated in the anime in congruence with government’s Sector 6 as well.

The director together with his cohorts Jamie Moss (Street Kings), William Wheeler (The Hoax) and Ehren Kruger (The Ring) regarded as promising screenwriters has given the one of the most lethargic live action animes of all time. They just interchanged the plot lines from the previous films and we know it can be spectacular to see sequences that can pay homage to the work of Director Mamoru Oshii but seriously, I just could have just watched the original films instead if I knew this was the blasphemy waiting for me on the big screen!

On the bright side, near seamless cinematography was handled by Jess Hall together with Jan Roelfs acting as the film’s production designer. It was fascinating to see how they envisioned a futuristic Hong Kong particulary in Yau Ma Tei and Jordan districts, turning the cityscape into giant holographic billboards aptly coined “Solograms” (solid holograms) by the director. It was amazing how the amalgamated urban and local setting still gives precedence to what Japan actually looks like at the present while supplanting technological advancements on its streets, buildings and the inhabitants.

Together with the help of Moving Picture Company (MPC) and WETA Digital the director, VFX Supervisor Guillame Rocheron and effects pioneer John Dkystra worked on the actual structural backdrop from the anime film, providing more than 1000 shots from the creation of the cyborg to the courtyard fight scenes with the hacked garbage truck driver. Seeing how the visuals works makes “Minority Report” advertisements in the tunnels and the city look like miniscule at best both in size and through its subliminal messaging.

Now we take on the crew starting with the main protagonist, Scarlett Johansson (Lucy) as field commander Major Motoko Kusanagi / Mira Killian, to be honest the thespian is a hit and miss for me. I do regard her for the chosen projects like “Lost in Translation”, “The Nanny Diaries”, “Lucy”, “Sing” but her versatility cannot still save her from films that needs to bring more the character on who she portrays. She’s got the Major’s swagger especially when she walks and on how she looks back over her shoulder. But like I said Scarlett can bring the character in the play but even her performance cannot save (nor Margot Robbie) a film with the sole purpose is to garner only sales.

Takeshi Kitano (Johnny Mnemonic) as Section 9 founder and Director Daisuke Aramaki known for his earlier works in the field of comedy and later become known as “Beat”. His demeanor for work is contested, simply put he does have an indispensable unit not only to rely on to get the work done but he has faith in them and they trust each other no matter the cost. Usually he has some security to protect him but not Takeshi who can put a bullet in your face if he really wants too.

Speaking of which, Pilou Asbæk (The Great Wall) as second in command Batou.  He is considered as the closest to the Major both professionally and personally. The actual one-two punch of Sector 9 literally, they have been considered having mutual affections but it did not apply on a congested premise especially with their line of work,  Pilou and Scarlett had collaborated already in the film “Lucy” back in 2014.

I was really glad the Singaporean thespian Chin Han (2012) is turning into marketable projects like his previous work with “The Dark Knight” and “Captain America: The Winter Soldier”. He plays Togusa one of my favorite characters, considered to be a “natural” and prefers to be one while having a repartee after his teammate Borma since he underwent another cyberization. He is quite prominent in handling investigations especially after he cracked the “Laughing Man” case and even made him led his own team.

The rest of the team which we see only for a few segments from Zimbabwe to New Zealand, Tawanda Manyimo (The Rover) portrays Borma the demolition specialist. Lasarus Ratuere (The Mule) as Carlos Ishikawa one of the supposed lead investigators who handles covert intelligence, tactical warfare and data manipulation assignments, basically he is also a soldier for JSDF (Japan Special Defence Force) having served with the Major and Batou as depicted in the series.

Yutaka Izumihara (The Great Raid) as Saito the marksman, a sniper who was just used at the last moment. His design is far the most grotesque looking and lazy. His eyes actually is uplinked in a satellite called the “Hawkeye” to give him the precision shooting he requires but it still can be hacked. But where is Pazu the former Yakuza? Turns out He was replaced by Ladriya the weapons specialist she is portrayed by new comer Danusia Samal (Boom) so like I’ve mentioned earlier, these characters was used only to depict the team nothing more to show for (what a loss).

The quasi villain of the story, Michael Carmen Pitt (I Origins) as Kuze / Hideo, regarded a revolutionist, terrorist and a member of the anti-augmentation rebellion. Juveniles that were captured by Hanka enforcers only to be made as test subjects to what they were fighting against. He was actually a significant character of the 2nd GIG tv series plus the GITS film titled the “Individual Eleven” same modus operandi but on a different setting. To be honest, Michael was not given a chance to act the part with emphasis on having a short running time for the film, more so the screenplay was not able to convey the actual emotions the two lovers had when they were “biologically” capable.

Peter Ferdinando (Hyena) as Cutter the CEO for Hanka Robotics, the man hides a clandestine purpose, not even his clear intentions of providing the country the means to persevere life with the business he’s running, how ironic what abominations he will bring to this world with science and technology. He is clear with his intentions, straight to the point and let others know that he is untouchable since the government supports his program. While Juliette Binoche (Godzilla)as Dr. Ouelet, she is not only the scientist who oversees Mira’s evolution despite her obligations to Cutter and her work, in the end she knows that every human being deserves to be respected and to be free.

Certain aspects of how the film was reciprocated by the public and critics alike panning on the premise relegated to the main protagonists background and how she copes life after being transferred to a cyborg body. It seems that she was more focused on her personal roots when was she born? Who were her parents? Where did she lived? Giving emphasis on her déjà vu moments where bits and pieces of her previous life is being recollected. Unlike from the manga, films and series she embraced who she was but noting something of significance was her time with Kuze in the hospital where they both shared loss, anonymity, love and paper cranes.

In closing, the whitewashing predicament hasn’t helped Hollywood based companies producing films that only concerns with one “race” and that is to be on top of the box office sales. Humans driven by greed and lust for power seek always any means necessary to explore knowledge then exploit it first with those who are not deemed “fit to survive” until we evolve into something more “godlike”. That’s probably the nexus point here maybe we can learn from it for either we fight for the future or be their “puppets”.

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