An empty shell
Sure Johannson rocks the body suit, but animé remake offers little else

An empty shell
Willie Krischke - 05/02/2017

Whether you like it or not, the fact is, cinema in 2017 has become a place where the ethnicity of a character matters, perhaps more than it ever has. Most studios and filmmakers continue to be slow to recognize that. As a result, their movies end up with subtexts they didn’t intend and can’t control.

That’s clearly the case with “Ghost in the Shell,” the American multiplex remake of the 1995 cult anime. There has been a lot of (well-merited) protest of the casting of Scarlett Johansson in the title role, and that backlash has seriously hurt the film at the box office. But it’s also given the film a surprisingly insightful, if clearly unintentional, subtext.

“Ghost in the Shell” is set in a future Japan where everyone is enhanced by robotic eyes, arms, even livers. Major (Johansson) is cutting edge. Her entire body is robotic; only her mind is human. She is basically a RoboCop. Her creator, Ouelet (Juliette Binoche) believes that she is a wonder, and the wave of the future, but Major has her doubts and questions. It’s lonely being the only one of her kind, and she wonders if her cybernetic body makes her less than truly human.

Major is on the trail of a hacker named Kuze, who is systematically taking out all of the people involved in her creation. Kuze somehow has the ability to hack into anyone’s robotic parts and make them do his will; he hacks two garbage truck drivers and attempts to assassinate Ouelet. Major takes greater and greater risks to bring Kuze in, but in the process, learns that she can’t trust her own memories, or the people she believes to be her friends.

This new version has streamlined the plot of the original anime, which I think was necessary – I remember feeling mostly confused watching it years ago (I never really understood all the fuss; there are plenty of anime I like more than Ghost in the Shell.) Johansson seems to be cast for the way she looks in a bodysuit. She's never been an actress with a lot of range, and she spends most of the film trying to find variations on her frowny face. I'll admit that it does look great, but the anime looked even better. I don't really understand this need to make scene for scene live action versions of our favorite animated films (I haven't yet, and probably won't, see the new “Beauty and the Beast,” in spite of my love for Emma Watson.) It feels to me like colorized versions of black and white movies.  

The reveal near the end – when Major learns who she was and where she came from – makes this feel like a companion piece to “Get Out”. (I’m starting to think “Get Out” is going to influence the way I see every other move this year, so get used to it.) She is, or used to be, Japanese; her name was Motoko. But Motoko is in the sunken place now; all that’s left is Major, who does what she’s told. Major functions as a metaphor for the film itself; its ghost is Japanese, even if its shell is Hollywood.

 

 

Top Shelf

Loco-motion, Chatham County & Baracutanga in Buckley
Loco-motion, Chatham County & Baracutanga in Buckley
By Chris Aaland
06/13/2019

“More cowbell!” Will Ferrell famously shouted in a “Saturday Night Live” skit. Well, dust them bells off because Grand Funk Railroad comes to the Sky Ute Casino Resort at 8 p.m. Saturday on its 50th anniversary tour.

Best of the fest, Tab Benoit and Naughty Professor
Best of the fest, Tab Benoit and Naughty Professor
By Chris Aaland
06/06/2019

The 14th annual Pagosa Folk’n Bluegrass rolls onto Reservoir Hill this Friday through Sunday, bringing a host of bluegrass and indie folk bands to the region and offering the best camping/music combo festival around.

Rockin' out, Diggin Dirt and Railroad Earther
Rockin' out, Diggin Dirt and Railroad Earther
By Chris Aaland
05/30/2019

Once upon a time, landscaping was my life. 

Iron thrones, iron horses, Jewell and Denver
Iron thrones, iron horses, Jewell and Denver
By Chris Aaland
05/23/2019

Many of you have taken a few days to digest the final episode of “Game of Thrones.” I certainly have.

Read All in Top Shelf

Day in the Life

It's Aliiiiive!
It's Aliiiiive!
By Stephen Eginoire
06/13/2019

For most of the year, the idyllic waters of the Animas Animas turns into a heaving, surging, icy torrent of fresh River flow lazily downstream, meandering through snowmelt.

Strainer things
Strainer things
By Stephen Eginoire
06/06/2019

As the Animas River once again roars to life, the features that define its rushing waters follow suit. Common along its boulder- strewn banks are piles of debris and detritus that create what is effectively known as a strainer.

Wet and wild
Wet and wild
05/30/2019

This past month has seen more than its share of brooding skies and torrential downpours. 

Cyclists of the Iron Horse: A Field Guide
Cyclists of the Iron Horse: A Field Guide
By Stephen Eginoire
05/23/2019

It’s everyone’s favorite bike-frenzied weekend, the 48th annual Iron Horse Bicycle Classic!

Read All in Day on the Life