The style show must go on, and Scarlett Johansson made sure it did Wednesday night at the NY premiere of her latest, Ghost in the Shell. But the American live-action version ditches the mystery, the atmospheric moodiness, and the philosophical aspects in favor of a standard, less-interesting action film story line. "Ghost in the Shell", Mamoru Oshii's much-admired Japanese anime, was shockingly futuristic when it was released in 1995.
But as the mystery starts to unfold, Ghost in the Shell heads in a far more unsettling and disappointing direction.
Screenwriters Jamie Moss and William Wheeler do provide crisper dialogue and a more polished narrative than the original film, but it's a tale still rooted in overwrought tropes and stale clichés. And even if Scarlett Johansson decides to leave acting and pursue a career in politics, , a sequel could solider on without her.
Since Johansson and her co-star Michael Pitt (who plays the mysterious villain Kuze) both deliver solid performances, I might have been able to stifle my reservationsabout the casting, just as I've done with other Hollywood movies. Beyond that, there are some nameless henchmen and a handful of background performers, and that's really all you see of Japanese people in a film that's set in Japan.
Major uses her mechanically enhanced skills as part of a small law enforcement group. Seriously, the way the characters are designed and the look they have given to the city invokes more of a mid 90s Van Dam movie than a nine-figure Hollywood blockbuster.
In the near future, Major (Scarlett Johansson) is the first of her kind: a human who has been cyber-enhanced to create a ideal soldier devoted to stopping the world's most unsafe criminals. As she prepares to face a new enemy, she realizes her life wasn't saved - it was stolen.
And the blonde beauty only chose to take on her role in "Ghost In The Shell" after consulting her therapist as it was so soon after her pregnancy. She soon learns from Dr. Ouelet (Juliette Binoche), the scientist who programmed her, that Hanka has been withholding the truth about their experiments - including the origins of Major's brain, the human soul (or "ghost") inside her robot "shell". Set in a semi-post-apocalyptic future, when humans are almost extinct and humanoid robots are taking over, a doctor attempts to save humanity by putting the consciousnesses of the recently dead into new bodies.
Directed by Rupert Sanders (of another cold FX extravaganza, Snow White And The Huntsman), with two credited script writers and twelve producers (although there must have been many others, as it reeks of rewriting and studio meddling), Ghost in the Shell might make you want to hit control alt delete.