Review: Be dazzled by a fantastical sci-fi world brought to life

Scarlett Johansson in Ghost in the Shell
Scarlett Johansson in Ghost in the Shell

Matt Adcock reviews Ghost in the Shell (15), starring Scarlett Johansson

“We cling to memories as if they define us, but they don’t. What we do is what defines us.”

In the near future, Major Motoko Kusanagi (Scarlett ‘Avengers’ Johansson) is the first of her kind – a cyber-enhanced human mind housed in an automaton weapon system ‘shell’.

Designed to be the perfect counter terrorist weapon, Major is tasked with taking down the world’s most dangerous criminals as part of Section 9, backed up by humans – many of whom also have some augmented cybernetic enhancements. She’s good at her job too – able to cloak in invisibility and kill without mercy.

Major is however experiencing hallucinations or glitches in her reality – are they somehow related to her human past before she was ‘saved’ and put into her Robocop-esque body? Bothered by how little she remembers about her past and exposed to possible malware after diving into a hacked robot – it becomes clear that things aren’t quite what they seem.

This film is based on the internationally acclaimed Japanese Manga, “The Ghost in the Shell” and director Rupert ‘Snow White and the Huntsman’ Sanders brings the fantastical Blade Runner-alike world to vibrant life. There are some jaw dropping visuals on display backed up with some kick ass action set pieces. Ironically though, despite the best efforts of Johansson, “Beat” Takeshi Kitano (as her boss) and Pilou Asbæk as Batou, her partner in Section 9 – the film fails to really feel like it has a soul within its impressive machine tooled body.

There is much to enjoy though and for sheer style over substance Ghost In The Shell is a triumph of future gazing, creating a world that looks scarily possible soon.

The concept of uploading human consciousness is one that has been explored in many sci-fi films and is surely a holy grail that science is grappling with behind closed doors.

Much has been made of the change in making the character of Major be played by a white actress rather than an Asian one, but within the huge budget multi-cultural landscape Johansson throws her all into the part and delivers an iconic performance.

Alas baddie Kuze (Michael Pitt), a cyber-terrorist who might know more about Major’s past than she thinks, doesn’t command sufficient threat and the neatly tied up plot feels a little lightweight.

Ghost In The Shell is a visual feast for sci-fi fans – switch off brain, sit back and prepare to be dazzled.