I am a huge Ghost in the Shell fan. And when it comes to Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex I’m not sure fan is even a strong enough word. I still haven’t seen Arise because I was (still am) bitter that it exists instead of a third season of SAC. That and they lack of the original English cast. Who were amazing. Amazing!
So when I heard that Hollywood was making a live action Ghost in the Shell movie I was excited. When I heard they cast Scarlott Johansson as the Major, I was disappointed and pretty much instantly wished the worst upon the film. I know. I’m petty.
And yet, I am also a fangirl. The teasers didn’t do anything for me, and seemed very blah. But then I saw a trailer that had all these homages to the original anime and my heart went a flatter. Yes, fanservice works on me, apparently. But still…Johansson as the Major? I was conflicted on going to see the film. The reviews did not make it sound like a film worth my money, which strangely made me more conflicted not less. Obviously I went to go see it or I wouldn’t bother writing about it.
I took the advice of a random dude on Reddit and saw the film in 3D. If you, random internet person, get the chance between standard and 3D I too would recommend the latter. It is a very pretty film and the 3D effects worked really well within the film, not like some movies where you can tell they did the shot specifically to make it “pop” out of the screen. The cinematography and set pieces are wonderfully done, although the city reminded me more of Blade Runner and not so much Ghost in the Shell. The anime is a bit more cerebral than showy in my incredibly biased opinion. But it has been a while since I sat and watched them so I could be talking out my butt.
The story…eh…I went in with very, very, very low expectations due to all the negative reviews I had read. I knew what I was in for, including the “twist” at the end. So, if you read all the bad takes on the movie chances are you will be pleasantly surprised by what you see. It’s not really the worst thing out there, just not as deep and reflective of the cartoon it’s based on. There was a lot of potential and they just kind of squandered it. But alas, Hollywood.
Now about the elephant in the room. Whitewashing. Heh, well, truthfully it really isn’t so much as whitewashing as yellowface. Turns out the Major really is Japanese just inside the shell of a white woman. Ooooooh boy oh boy. The casting in general doesn’t make sense, unless you go under the assumption that the studio wanted white stars. I feel like that would be a very correct assumption.
The city feels very East Asian and is filled with Asians. Most of the extras are Asian. Most of Section 9 is Asian. Chief Aramaki speaks in Japanese and Motoko’s mother has a Japanese accent. There are Chinese characters on signs/roads…I could go on. But the main players are Caucasian. Michael Pitt actually really works in the role of Kuze, in fact I wish he had a bigger part. But regardless, it seems obvious the filmmakers wanted to keep the Asian feel of the source material but didn’t want to actually have Asians carrying the film.
That’s a problem, and a big one. It would have been better to just do a whitewashing instead of that weird “no, she’s really Asian” thing they did.
Buuuuuuuuut in spite of the yellow face and the weak clichéd plot I…I kind of liked it? The fanservice throwbacks, the music, the scenery, the fact that I could get my Ghost in the Shell fix, it all kind of worked on me. I have to be honest, I’ll probably buy it on Blu-Ray.