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Ghost in the Shell Review

By Matthew Passantino

Bored as Shell

"Ghost in the Shell" is another film that puts the endlessly charismatic Scarlett Johansson in the lead role in an effort to show off her action star bona fides but gives her very little to do. Johansson is a star and she knows how to throw a punch on screen but must we keep giving her roles that require all of the life and energy be drained from her? As if the dismal "Lucy" wasn't enough, now she plays yet another robotic heroine saddled with a gloomy story.

Director Rupert Sanders' ("Snow White and the Huntsman") has created a movie with dazzling visuals and set pieces, with which he hopes to distract you from the dud of a story that surrounds them. It's worth applauding the razzle-dazzle of the production but it's not an excuse for a dreary, soul-draining movie.

Johansson's Major Mira has been rescued from an attack and given a second life by Hanka Industries. At Hanka, she is implanted with a new mind within her robotic shell, creating an entity that is able to take out some of the most hardened baddies. She teams up with tough-guy Batou (Pilou Asbaek) to hunt down a hacker named Kuze (Michael Pitt).


A lot more than that goes on within "Ghost in the Shell" but it's never a good sign when it's hard to put those plot points into words. Based on the comic by Masamune Shirow, "Ghost in the Shell" has been at the center of a great deal of casting controversy since the project was announced with Johansson at the lead. There are ardent fans out there for this material, who will inevitably have a problem with the whitewashed material, which can only do "Ghost in the Shell" a great disservice because who else is this movie for?

This is not a movie that will convert any novices - such as myself - to this material.  "Ghost in the Shell" is a very niche production, playing to those who are familiar with the Major and her adventures and never giving a reason for anyone else to care. We get some glimpses of her backstory but it's all buried within the messy story.

The visuals truly pop off the screen (and I saw it in 2D) but the vibrant aesthetics never sync with the entire story. The movie has a dour tone from start to finish, failing to engage us in the conquests of our robotic leads (and don't say it's hard to make an interesting movie about robots - "Ex Machina" is a dazzling piece of engaging filmmaking, and how about "Blade Runner" anyone?!)

Before we go, did I even mention the great Juliet Binoche is in this? She plays the Major's stand-in mother figure. Binoche is one of those actresses who excude such grace and elegance, she can give the slightest whiffs of gravitas to anything. Well, almost anything.

What did you think?

Movie title Ghost in the Shell
Release year 2017
MPAA Rating PG-13
Our rating
Summary "Ghost in the Shell" is a movie of dazzling visuals and dreary plot.
View all articles by Matthew Passantino
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