The 2017 remake of 1995’s Ghost in the Shell stars Scarlett Johansson in the lead role of Major. Separated from her family following a near-fatal accident, all that is salvageable of Major’s body is her brain, which is transplanted into a cybernetic body – or ‘Shell’.
Major is now at the beck and call of Hanka – the agency behind the transference of her ‘Ghost’ consciousness – and those who want to use her as a counterterrorism weapon. Major becomes hugely skilled in combat and serves as a valuable asset. She knows, however, that she is one-of-a-kind, and struggles with being alone in a technologically-interconnected world.
Of course, she isn’t entirely alone. Major has friends – there’s Dr. Oulet (Juliette Binoche) who programmed her, and squadmates Batou (Pilou Asbaek), Aramaki (Takeshi Kitano) and Ishikawa (Lasarus Rateure). When a hacking plot is discovered that aims to take down the hierarchy running the city, it’s up to Major and her friends to stop the hackers and find out who – or what – is at its heart.
Ghost in the Shell is, at times, a shot-for-shot replica of the 1995 anime it’s based upon (itself derived from a manga). Johansson is well-cast (despite concerns) and does a great job at defending the city, as the lovechild of Adam Jensen and Natasha Romanoff. Her relationship with Batou mimics the film almost exactly, and their onscreen chemistry is great.
The animation in the first film remains highly regarded some 22 years later, and the visual effects in this live-action iteration are cutting edge, with 3D used remarkably well (not something you can say too often these days).
As a remake of the original film, Ghost in the Shell may make anime/manga purists turn up their noses, but as an introduction to the genre and its the themes of identity, self-discovery and belonging (not necessarily new, but important nonetheless), it’s an enhanced addition to the franchise, and a grim look at what the future may hold.
In cinemas: March 30, 2017
Starring: Scarlett Johansson, Juliette Binoche, Peter Ferdinando
Directed by: Rupert Sanders