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You know as a person who critiques media I should be open to all opinions. After all I love anime. And anime possesses a whole slew of differing opinions as it comes from a culture that’s not our own. And plus, the point of being a critic is to aid the people producing a product and to help them improve upon their designs. But sometimes the redundant whining over the smallest insignificant detail in mass can get really fucken irritating, especially when it’s my community that is being stupid.
When the following movie was first announced I suddenly learned just how trekkies who actually liked the new Star Trek reboot must have felt. Watching people who are anime fans/otakus grip, bitch and moan about this shit nonstop was just unbelievable. The post release backlash that Ghost in the Shell received was blown so far out of proportion that it was ridicules. The comments about “white washing” – a word that I had never even heard of until this movie was announced – were pretty much the only concern people in my community had. I mean there were even whiny ass YouTube PSA bitching about this shit before the movie was even released.
Hell, there was even talk of white genocide by the conservative community regarding the movie. Fucking white genocide. And that amount of stupidity really just blows my fucken mind. A white girl getting casted for a character that isn’t white in the source material somehow well lead to genocide? Tssh okay, whatever! Your entitled to your opinion no matter how stupid it is.
But it was just unbelievable watching the backlash this had pre-release on the level that it was. No matter what forum I went to discussing this…weather it was MyAnimeList, Gaia, Anime Planet, Reddit or fucken Animesuki. All people kept bitching about was “aaah A white women is casted as a japanese role meeeh! Hollywood is killing the world’s best anime aaaha. The Asian identity is under attack mmaah”. All I saw was bickering from everyone regarding race in film adaptations instead of the actual movie itself. Nothing about the director or how the cinematography might look, the characters or how they would tackle the setting and themes that the anime touched upon.
Nope! Everything was all about fucken race first, movie second. Fuck notions of direction and acting skills! There’s a white woman playing a japanese role so its automatically gonna suck. Why was it that this was the only thing people were giving this movie crap for even before it was shipped to theaters? Is race the only thing that defines a movies worth based on a source material that’s set in a specific country? I’m pretty sure that it’s not.
So now I finally got the chance to rent the DVD of the movie people wrote off as bullshit right from the get go without even watching it. And honestly, I’m going to admit. It wasn’t grate. It has its fair share of problems. But it sure as hell is not deserving of the bullshit reviews it’s gotten.
First off lets come at this movie from the common movie goer’s standpoint. Which honestly, I think is the reason behind a lot of the bullshit people are giving this. I want to first in I put the notion that this is supposed to be based on a world renowned japanese anime franchise into a box…along with my fucken weeaboo biased and then lock it up and put it on a shelf too high for all of the bitching whining ass little kids complaining about stupid shit can’t reach it. I’m going to come at this with the mindset that the people who saw this in theaters or bought the DVD thought they were watching just another movie of the cyberpunk genre.
Because I fucken love cyberpunk. It’s one of the reasons I enjoyed Ghost in the Shell so much. I’m just naturally drawn to cybernetics and stories that philosophically explore the human condition. And from these specific standpoints this movie…honestly isn’t all that bad. Like at all! But don’t get me wrong. There are still a lot of things here that makes this movie suck. As well as things that would make even a person who hasn’t seen the anime think the people directing this were some serious weirdos with a liberal agenda and a possible pot addiction. I mean one of the first things I noticed right off the bat – aside from the fact we were dealing with a very stoic and emo ass version of The Major – was just how diverse the cast actually was. It wasn’t until the entire cast gathered in one room that I actually saw just how much cultural appropriation was happening here. If you guys thought just Scarlet Johansson getting cast as the fucken Major was strange. Holy shit! take a look at the entire cast as a whole.
This movie might as well be titled “Cyberpunk: Multiculturalism”. In the original anime and manga this is based on we have a cast that is of course all japanese as Section 9 – the group the story of the anime, manga and films are all centered around – is a police intelligence agency centered in japan. Here however the cast is an entirely mixed ass bag of fucken ethnicity. We have a Danish guy playing Batou, a Chinese Togusa, a fucken Fijian Ishikawa and a fully japanese Saito just to name a few.
And honestly this shit is totally fucken okay with me! I’m a fucken globalist progressive liberal so a mixed ass cast of ethnicity’s is all good from a purely philosophical point of view. But the question I kept asking throughout this entire movie was “where exactly is this movie set?”. Is this supposed to be japan? If this is then I guess in the backstory of this particular version of Masanori Ota’s universe Japan has completely abandoned there heavily xenophobic conservative agenda by the turn of the 22nd century and have adopted a mass immigration policy. I mean in the anime series refugees were a reoccurring factor in the story due to the third world war but they were mostly form other Asian countries. But hell, honestly considering japans population crises right now, immigration by this point would be a very logical step to take. So really there are a lot of things that could logically explain away the mixed ethnicity of the cast. Things the idiots in my community didn’t take into account. But whatever. Apparently japan in this universe is fully accepting of foreigners so really I didn’t find there to be a fucken problem with the casting choices here at all. That wasn’t the problem this movie suffered from.
And the cast members acting out these characters? Were they bad? Fuck no! Not at all! The acting was good. At least for an average cyberpunk. You could tell that the cast didn’t really give a fuck about the characters they were playing and were just concerned about their pay. What I found a bit strange was Chief Aramaki’s character. He’s played by Takeshi Kitano, a full-fledged japanese man and speaks japanese throughout the entire movie while the rest of the cast speaks plain old English. And this felt a little unbalanced to me. And it all happens without losing a single beat.
But this can easily be argued away by the fact that hey…. cyberbrains! In this universe, cyber brains are an cyberbrains! In this universe, cyber brains are an everyday highly used and thoroughly integrated in to society factor in the stories universe. And a key factor in the entire series. And linguistics is a cake walk for a cybernetic brain and can process the language. I mean in the anime there were firkin characters downloading fighting techniques in the middle of battle so interpreting language in under a second and implementing it in a conversation is not at all too farfetched. But still a lot of casual movie goers probably wouldn’t really caught on to that unless they were aware of the anime. But honestly who the fuck cares!? I’m loving the shit out of this multicultural setting.
And don’t even get me started on the choreography and high-quality direction of the action scenes here! There is absolutely zero logical flack you can give this movie in regards to its production values. The direction by Rupert Sanders and Cinematographer Jess Hall is absolutely fucken superb here. There was not a single poorly done fight scene here in the entire god damn movie. The gun fights were awesome and some of the action flowed like something straight out of the fucken Matrix.
There are gun fights in the streets and in a fucken Yakuza occupied night club all of which were accompanied by a superb musical score by Clint Mansell and Lorne Balfe. Anyone who takes issue with the fight choreography and the direction. Fuck you! It was all awesome. Give fucken Jess Hall free fast food and a night’s worth of hookers because the mother fucker deserves it. But of course – all of that aside – does it still work as a Ghost in the Shell movie?
The answer to that would of course be…. Fuck no!
It works really well as a standard Cyberpunk. Like extremely well. Seriously, go see this if you like military sci-fi! You well love this! But we of course I have to compare it to its source material. And just as you would expect that’s where this movie crashes and burns. Horrifically! It’s not the fucken forced meshing of cultures or the fucken whitewashing or any of that stupid insignificant bullshit that screws up this movie. What they fucked up here big time is the Ghost in Shell aesthetic. Everything that made Ghost in the Shell so amazing is not here. The characters – even though there acting was good – did not feel at all like the characters of the anime. Nore did the movie explore the same type of themes the anime and manga explored. Trans humanism, the human condition, philosophy, all of the fucked-up notions that go along with cybernetics and the meshing of souls and metal. All of that has been forsaken in place of a stupid little story about a very emotionless Major getting lied to by a bunch of corporate scumbags about her origin and thus fights to learn who she really is.
This completely fails as a Ghost in the Shell movie. The issue here isn’t something as stupid as fucken whitewashing. I loved the casting choices and the notions of an ethnically mixed japan. That shits fucken awesome. My qualms with this movie are purely with its narrative. This is not a Ghost in the Shell Movie. This is a mainstream cyberpunk that Jamie Moss, Ehren Kruger and DreamWorks collectively all just slapped with the Ghost in the Shell label. This is not The Major and this is not Batou. While the acting was good none of these people felt like characters from the anime. Plus, really none of them are as flushed out here. This is only a 106-minute-long movie while we’ve literally had several animated movies and 50 plus episodes of the anime to get to know the majority of the cast. While the characters we get a lot of here such as The Major, Batou, and Aramaki don’t feel like the characters from the anime at all the story does adhere to some of the interactions seen in the anime. We get some chemistry between Botou and the Major going on here along with her and villain Kuze. And speaking of Kuze while he was a member of the Individual Eleven terrorist group in the 2nd season of the anime his role here is contorted to more of a role akin to that of the puppet master from the 1995 movie. Manipulating people’s cyber brains from the shadows and such. But still he was quite different having a fully functional body here in the movie…somewhat.
And of course, they changed his character motivations to that of more of a tragic victim of corporate scheming instead of a full-on rouge AI like he was in the anime. You know…. everything that made the puppet master such an omnipotent and philosophical villain.
While the acting was good and no one’s acting felt fake or forced. They didn’t have anything Ghost in the Shell feeling about them. I mean stating the Majors characters is stoic would be an understatement. I can tell you right now – aside from maybe a few select personality quarks in the original 1995 animated movie – this is not the Major Kusanagi we’ve come to know and love. But the thing you have to understand about The Major is that throughout the various iterations of Ghost in the Shell she’s never the same exact women. In each iteration, she’s a slightly different person. In the original manga, she was a kind of sassy type and possibly bisexual. And in the first animated film back in 1995 she was a kind of stoic but she was also a by the books in your face kind of women who just didn’t give a fuck.
That and highly philosophical, as per the entire franchises theme. The Majors always been a bit a stoic philosophical character, always chatting about her ghost and her other various musings
But she was never…a fucking selfless loner. She’s always had a fun loving and snarky twinge to her, but Scarlet’s portrayal of her was just way to damn emo. And then there are the matter of the shots of the cityscape, whats with this movie and those redundant shots of the environment.
Seriously fuck all those shots of the city. They overused the shit out of these shots. I estimate there was about 6 to 7 minutes of the film devoted to these bird’s eye views of the city that really overdid the dystopian future vibe. While yes Ghost in the Shell has always been a textbook dystopian future setting this is just not that.
And then of course there’s the biggest thing that pissed me off about this. My most favorite characters of the entire Ghost in the Shell franchise were not here. And those are the fucken Tachikomas. In the anime we’ve all come to love there are of course the Think Tanks. Robots otherwise known as the Tachikomas. Those lovable big ass blue fucken spider bot mother fuckers with their childish ass voices chatting each other up about everything from ghosts to the human condition. They were pretty much the fucken comic relief of the Stand Alone Complex anime with specific episodes dedicated to just them and their conversations. And I fucken loved the shit out of them. They were moe, but it was the kind of Science Fictiony mature type of moe that has just never happened in any other anime…other…then Ghost in the Shell.
But unfortunately, DreamWorks did not grace us with their presence here. One can argue it would be impossible to incorporate something that sounds like that into a live action film of this kind and not have it come across as absolutely fucken retarded. But when you think of some of the things they put here and whats been achieved by live action cinema in the past… I honestly feel that it very well could’ve been done. And it would’ve sure as hell brightened the bleak air established around Scarlets Major by a shit ton. The Tachikomas could’ve been implemented here in a manner that gave them a more serious and adult vibe all the while still keeping their quarks in check. You can do a childishly stupid sounding robot in a mature fashion. It’s been done before. But they didn’t. No Think Tanks here. And that was a huge disappointment here.
The only thing we got that remotely resembled a Tachikoma was the spider tank at the movies climax, ripped lovingly from the 1995 film. And this of course brings me to the nods this film makes to the original animated movie. They were clearly using that film for the basis here, which didn’t have the Tachikomas but whatever, I still would’ve preferred they be here. But we’ve all seen the trailers and saw the snippets of the Major beating the shit out of that guy. There are also several other nods the movie makes to the source material like Kuze hacking the two garbage men to do his bidding and the opening credits where we see the major coming into being. But those are merely nods to the look of Ghost in the Shell. Not to its values.
Yes, Ghost in the Shell has always had fist and gun fights but that’s not what made the franchise good. Ghost in the Shell has always been about the human condition and what it means to be human. It touched on deep philosophical topics. This movie doesn’t do that. I can’t fucken shake how wrong this feels as a Ghost in the Shell movie. And that’s why I think the best thing DreamWorks could’ve done with this is just simply… not link this to Ghost in the Shell. I’ve already stated this works splendidly as a Cyberpunk movie in of itself. If they took the Ghost in the Shell label off of this and tweaked a few names and terms used here and made it something…… “stand alone”…(ha ha)…then this could’ve honestly gone on to spawn its own franchise.
Yeah! I honestly saw that kind of fucken potential her. One might say people would obviously then draw a correlation between it and Ghost in the Shell. But people have done that with the new Deus Ex games. And guess what… that’s because the designers have already stated that they were inspired by Ghost in the Shell! Hell, the fucken Wachowski Brothers have stated that they were inspired by Ghost in the Shell! Imitation is – in fact – the greatest form of flattery.
But if you imitate something you need to imitate its selling points. DreamWorks Ghost in the Shell does not do this and that was the mistake that did it in.
Ladies in gentlemen, no matter what people claim are its faults this was just simply a bad idea from the get go. This should be the final lesson studios everywhere should learn from this. Listen and take heed:
Do not adapt anime into fucking live action! It doesn’t fucking work!
It was just another anime licensed live action destined to end the same way as all the others. But even though it sucks as a Ghost in the Shell movie, I still have to give it praise for its direction and fight choreography. It was damn awesome. Therefor I honestly think a fair score for Ghost in the Shell is a surprising…7 out of 10. And award it the Science Fiction, Action and Face Palm Seals of Approval. While it was destined to be a disappointment in the eyes of fans it wasn’t as big of a disappointment to cinema in general. At least to the point everyone thought it would be. It was just another attempt to adapt the unadaptable. But as far as unadaptables go it wasn’t something completely awful. To any fan of dystopian future cyberpunks with bad ass action scenes, I can highly recommend this to you. But be prepared for some serious mixing of ethnicity. But if you’re a hardcore fan of the anime this is something that you’ll probably want to pass on.