Ghost in the Shell (1995) – Film Review

Ghost in the Shell 1995 PosterGhost in the Shell (Kôkaku Kidôtai)

Starring Atsuko Tanaka, Iemasa Kayumi, Akio Ôtsuka

Directed by Mamoru Oshii, based on the manga comic book series by Masamune Shirow

IMDB Rating: 8.0

Can I quickly say, I don’t think this trailer with the crappy English voice-overs does the film justice.

The famed Japanese animation that is set to be given the Hollywood treatment in 2017. Johansson may do a good job in the future, but chances are it won’t be anywhere near as good as this classic.

Ghost in the Shell is set in the year 2029, in a world where the line between biological and mechanical has been blurred. In this future, many people are attached to the network in some way, and almost everyone is a certain mix of human and cyborg. As a result, cyber-terrorism is a huge threat to a society where someone with the right skills can almost take control of another human being. The film follows Motoko Kusanagi, a ‘cybernetic-human’ law enforcer employed by Public Security Section 9, a law-enforcement division. Her, along with squad members Batou and Togusa are tasked with tracking down the mysterious Puppet Master who is controlling people through the network with the aim of seeking asylum as a life-form.

This is the first manga film I’ve reviewed, and it’s been years since I even watched one! I must say that I loved the experience – you can see the attention to detail that has gone into the drawings and can appreciate the effort gone through to make them, perhaps more so than you can do with a live action movie.

I must say that I’m not fully confident on the plot of the movie as this is a film that thrown a lot of information at you right from the off and expects you to understand. Maybe that’s due to the film having already been a comic book and it expecting people to have read it, but for a complete novice like me the world took a while to click. That being said, with everything being alien and so much to take in,there is rarely a dull moment in the film – minus a few pointlessly long bits of looking at scenery that have no relevance to the movie. The story if you didn’t already guess is completely in Japanese (a la Battle Royale), with English subtitles running underneath. That isn’t really a problem though because it is possible to read the subtitles and take in what’s happening on screen. The idea is one that I can half-believe, the idea that we all end up being physically connected to the internet and then that being exploited by cyber terrorists isn’t as far-fetched as the movie makes it out to be. The lead character is a captivating individual whose emotions aren’t completely clear throughout. The final parts of the film sum it up quite nicely – slightly confusing, talking a lot about cyber stuff I didn’t quite understand, but you knew what was happening in essence and that was utterly captivating. I couldn’t tear my eyes away throughout, perhaps out of fear of missing the subs but I still mean it in the best possible way!

I can’t really say much for the actors/voices because my lack of Japanese tongue meant I was doing more reading than listening. I’ll leave that to the Japanese speaking critics. The directing is an interesting one as well, because I’m not sure if Mr Oshii has actually drawn this or has just told someone else (perhaps the creator of the original comics Masamune Shirow) to draw his vision for the film. That being said, the film is very well drawn and the way it is ‘shot’ reminds you of a legitimate Hollywood movie. I remember thinking to myself during the first real fight scene – where Motoko takes down the runaway villain in a shallow water pool – that it was drawn and directed so beautifully that if 2017’s director Rupert Sanders can replicate that then it’ll be a great scene!

The general public may be excited to see Scarlett Johansson bring this to life, but it will have to go some to impress Ghost in the Shell’s seriously loyal following. I understand the worry that this will lose its magic once it is Americanized or turned into some sort of Lucy 2.0 by Rupert Sanders (director of Snow White and the Huntsman), and would strongly advise that people watch this before it is ruined by Hollywood. Sure, some parts of this are confusing and it can feel like it’s an hour’s worth of material stretched into a feature-length (runtime is only 83 minutes), but Ghost in the Shell is a captivating story with interesting characters that is beautifully drawn. It’s no surprise that this is seen as a masterpiece in the world of anime.

Don’t be put off seeing this because it’s a cartoon or because it’s in Japanese (I hear you can get a version with English voice-overs but I hate to think what that’s like), the characters and the plot, albeit quite confusing, is as good as you’ll see in many Hollywood blockbusters.

4 responses to “Ghost in the Shell (1995) – Film Review

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