The Latest Adaptation of the Classic Anime Series Aims to Enrapture a New Generation of Fans
By: Brenton Mitchell
“Ghost in the Shell,” directed by Rupert Sanders, is the latest adaption of the legendary series created by Masamune Shirow. First releasing in 1989, the series grew a massive fanbase, creating demand for a slew of adaptations: the recognizable being the 1995 anime film and 2002 television series.
The film follows Major (Scarlett Johansson), a woman who, after an accident has her brain transplanted to a robotic body, is commissioned to the counter-cyberterrorist organization Public Security Section 9.
Working alongside her partner Batou (Pilou Asbæk) and the rest of Section 9, Major attempts to thwart the great threat posed by the mysterious Kuze along the way finding out unforeseen truths about her world and herself.
The most difficult aspect of any film adaptation is the difficulty in creating a product that appeals to both old fans and new consumers. “Ghost in the Shell” carries the additional crux of its source material being a foreign medium that does not have nearly as much of an avid fan base as it does in its home country Japan.
Though the prevalence of anime and manga in the United States is on the rise, it pales in comparison to the popularity of the most commonly adapted mediums such as books or comics.
Sanders’ attempt to achieve this desired balance is through remaining faithful to the material that made the series successful in the first place.
This effort is seen on every level, first from the presentation of a futuristic technology-laden Japan. There are numerous scenes of the city, created with a heavy amount of CGI. The effect of which ranges from incredibly immersive to hilariously cartoony.
Though there is a minimal amount of worldbuilding in regards to actual narrative, there is a lot to be digested through the various ways characters move and interact within the world itself.
The most apparent example being the prevalence of autonomous robots of various sorts, and the seemingly infinite possibilities for human augmentation, such as a robotic liver that allows one to consume as much alcohol as they could imagine without penalty.
The 1995 film and 2002 series have numerous moments of intense, beautiful action, but the main allure lies in the intricacies of the characters and how they fit into the world. Primarily, the internal struggle of Major as she comes to terms with both who and what she is, is itself an incredibly interesting plot point that could carry the show by itself.
Compounded with compelling side characters, each with their own unique traits and motivations, along with thought provoking themes such as personal autonomy and the nature of the soul, the visuals of “Ghost in the Shell” act as the vehicle for an incredible story – not the fuel.
The new film fails to deliver a narrative that is worthy of the world it’s placed in, with dialogue that ranges from incredibly boring to hilariously cliche.
The plot itself lacks identity and cohesion, bringing forth plot lines only to abandon them as they pick up steam. The effect is a film that is based around sporadic moments instead of a singular enjoyable experience.
Unsurprisingly, the film is at its best when it rips directly from the source material, with some scenes being one-for-one copies taken from the various anime and manga runs.
For all its mistakes, “Ghost in the Shell” at the very least acts as a good introductory piece for those new to the series, giving ample opportunity to spark interest in delving deeper into the source material. A feat that in itself makes the movie worthwhile, though longtime fans are more than likely to leave the theater reasonably disappointed.
Thus, while “Ghost in the Shell” is rife with cyber-punk eye candy, the stark visuals function primarily as a shell masking a movie that is sometimes brilliant, but mostly mediocre.