Scarlett Johansson battles criminals in futuristic 'Ghost in the Shell'

With its killer-robot geishas, Godzilla-size hologram ads and almost nude fighting gear, it's a cyberpunk wonderland - but there isn't much ghost left in this smokin' hot shell. And despite all the creativity and skill that went into the production design, the movie also serves as a reminder that in a few key ways, Hollywood's imagination remains severely limited. Screenwriters Jamie Moss and William Wheeler likely saw the twist as an opportunity to add a new story to the Ghost in the Shell narrative, as in the original series, Major has a Japanese name, Motoko, but that's just a name given to her.

This homage is more clever than the rest, especially when faux Pris asks the most pertinent identity question of all in this Frankenstein future world of jumbled humanity and technology.

From it's opening titles through to the final scene, the film is reminiscent of Westworld, Chris Cunningham's music videos and is nearly simply an updated version of lots of movies you've already seen - Bladerunner, Total Recall, Fifth Element, The Matrix etc both in plot, character development and mood. Unfortunately, that just isn't the case with this version of Ghost in the Shell. It might have simply gotten by as a stylish (if unnecessary) remake with some dazzling visual effects and very on-trend costumes.But by wading into such treacherous territory without really grappling with the implications, the film makes its artistic liberties feel cheap and even more infuriating-like a 21 century, "post-racial" incarnation of yellowface. If the robotics corporation is creating these "physically perfect" shells for Japanese souls and they both happen to be white, the film is asserting that physical perfection is white. Where she is a robot with a human brain, he is a human with mechanical parts. The one they are on the trail of now is named Kuze (Seven Psychopaths' Michael Carmen Pitt). Although the first half of his new film leans into interesting notions about consent, control, and the female body, the second half reveals this subtext to be largely accidental.

Sanders' film begins with the "birth" of Major Mira Killian (that's what I heard anyway; it's not in the credits) in a bath of synthetic flesh (or something).

The original anime film mused about the nature of memory and reality against a futuristic urban Blade Runner backdrop. However, in the movie's defense, most of the characters are robots, which technically can be any race their makers want them to be.

"Ghost in the Shell", a Paramount Pictures release, is rated PG-13 by the Motion Picture Association of America for "intense sequences of sci-fi violence, suggestive content and some disturbing images". There's nothing about Ghost in the Shell that makes me think anyone left that set feeling like they did their best work.

  • Salvatore Jensen