And so, the day finally arrived and a live action “remake” of Ghost In The Shell is in theatres. It’s been a long time coming, and something that fans have been both nervous and excited about… Mired in controversy from the start, the film had a huge mountain to climb before it was even released. But did it manage it? Well… Sort of…

Let’s start by addressing the elephant in the room… Ever since Scarlett Johansson was announced as playing The Major, there has been huge backlash about the idea of whitewashing in the movie. And yes, there are a lot of non-Japanese actors in it. But you know what? It doesn’t really detract from the movie…

In fact, without going into spoiler territory, they actually address this in the plot of the movie, and it’s done in a pretty tactful way that only adds to the storyline. I was pretty damn impressed that, even though it wasn’t much of a surprise, it was handled very well.

Plus, when you have Aramaki talking to the team entirely in Japanese, it only serves to add to the idea of a completely connected world. The diversity of the cast, along with the extras, actually ends up improving the world building, in many ways! So yeah, it would have been great for a Japanese actress to get the starring role in a big budget movie like this, but it doesn’t actually damage the storyline of the movie… Instead, it adds another element to it.

However, the plot is something that needs to be discussed. Overall, it’s a pretty damn good reimagining of the Ghost In The Shell storyline, mixing together bits from the original movie and Stand Alone Complex 2nd Gig. The first act is very well done, setting the foundation and groundwork for a seemingly strong, truly Ghost In The Shell style narrative.

Unfortunately, the questions the first act poses go largely unanswered and unaddressed… There is still the overarching question of “what makes us human”, but a lot of the intelligence of the original movie seems to have been lost in translation. Don’t get me wrong, though… It’s a damn good movie, and one that I really enjoyed… But as a part of the Ghost In The Shell franchise, it feels like the black sheep… But then, it was almost destined to…

It’s been 22 years since the original was released… So that’s an insanely long build up of excitement… One that no movie could really live up to. In fact, the only way it could have lived up to the build up was to recreate the exact same storyline and scenes, shot by shot, line by line as the original… But even then, it would be branded as a “cheap copy” or “unoriginal”… It was doomed from the start.

Oh, and I must say, I wasn’t too much of a fan of how they turned Kuze into a seemingly broken man who is mostly unstable. It was a huge departure from the calm and collected individual in Stand Alone Complex… However, once I put my fanboy mentality to the side, the change suited the new storyline.

One thing that Ghost In The Shell did right, and I mean really did right, was the world-building. I’ve already touched on the diversity and connected world aspect, but there were just a few little touches that really made all the difference.

For example, in a scene that had the Major and Batou walking through the streets, having them stop to pick up some meet from a butcher’s stall and feed some stray dogs was a wonderful little addition. It just helped to make the city feel more lived in… And of course, the sweeping shots of the cityscape with the holographic billboards made you feel like this is an entirely possible, realistic look at how the future could be.

All in all, I would say that Ghost In The Shell is a loving tribute to the series as a whole, and live Stand Alone Complex and Arise, is another alternative storyline for the characters we all love so much. It’s not a remake, but a reimagining… And when you look at like that, it’s actually pretty damn good. It’s a shame that the intelligent questions raised are largely forgotten or lost in translation, and there is a bit more of a focus on action that the original, but all in all, it’s the best Western adaptation of an anime I have ever seen…

I would definitely recommend any Ghost In The Shell fan (or any cyberpunk/sci-fi fan in general) to go and watch it… But go with an open mind. Leave the controversy and the fanboy mentality at the door, like I had to, and you’ll see that it’s actually a pretty decent movie.

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