Ghost in the Shell has a lot to say (and show) us in the beautiful genre that is science fiction. Here, where reality is obviously suspended, we stand a chance of hearing about what it means to be human when our defenses are lower – we stop worrying about this story being about us, until it suddenly is.
With the adaptation of Masamune Shirow’s manga to Hollywood cinematic vision, we see the way that the story about a nearly-nameless warrior named Major, who we know is something beyond what we can see. She’s part-cyborg, but she’s also someone with a past, a past that the Hanka company has re-worked (she’s a human brain in a robot body) to be used by the anti-terrorist team that makes up Section 9. Within moments of the prologue, we have identity, artificial intelligence, story, history, and community slowly spinning out in spiderweb cracks around us. It will only take a second for them to shatter around Major (Scarlett Johannson).
When the hacker Kuze (Michael Carmen Pitt) becomes a target for Section 9, drawing Major and her partner Batou (Pilo Asbaek) into a trap that causes serious bodily harm, the cracks in Major’s armor begin. And suddenly, her history is dragged into the light.
What ends up being one woman’s search for herself (who she is, where she came from, etc.) becomes a battle over a person’s identity as theirs or the community’s. While A.I. Artificial Intelligence and I, Robot have been some of a few to ask what makes us truly human, Ghost in the Shell has several opportunities to do so against a splashy background.
Does it succeed? Unfortunately, only in bits and pieces. It’s visually stunning, but it’s as if the director (Rupert Sanders) and team were so invested in looking “cool,” that they failed to really punch through on the storyline. Of course, fans were afraid of its use of a white actress in a Japanese role, and audiences failed to help the film maximize at the box office. What remains to be seen is if the film will ultimately deserve another shot (or sequel) where the storyline gets another try.
Paramount’s Blu-ray/DVD/Digital HD combo pack includes special features about the making-of the film “Hard-Wired Humanity,” a look at Section 9, “Cyber Defenders,” and “Man and Machine: The Ghost Philosophy.”