Ghost in the Shell: Beauty without substance

Photo courtesy of Reliance Entertainment/Arad Productions/Shanghai Film Group Corporation/Huahua Media/Paramount Pictures

7 Cyborg Kidneys out of 10

The one thing “Ghost in the Shell” gets right is the film’s vision of the future is visually stunning and the world is incredibly well realized. Unfortunately, it doesn’t do much else right, it’s choppy pacing and overcrowded plot weigh down the film to the point that it really is just eye candy.

Based on the 1995 Japanese animation of the same name, “Ghost in the Shell” is set in a near future where cybernetic augmentation is not only possible, but commonplace. Major, the protagonist, is the first of her kind, a human brain placed into an entirely mechanical body. Scarlett Johansson fills out the main role, and she’s generally adequate which could really go for almost everyone in the cast. Michael Pitt is the one stand out for me, but that’s as much for his character being interesting as him giving a solid performance. That’s really all there is to say about the cast, so now I get to move on to talking about the world and its imagery.

“Ghost in the Shell” is a simply gorgeous film from start to finish. The animation that this film is based on was made in the 90s, so you get hints of that here and there, which today serves to only make its futurescapes seem even more original. Its dreary concrete adorned with neon and neon like holograms remind me of “Blade Runner” in the best way. The “Ghost in the Shell” does an amazing job of realizing its animation counterpart’s set pieces and style into the real world. It’s the Cyberpunk aesthetic done right and it helps build an engrossing and cohesive world that really makes me wish the rest of the film was up to snuff.

In spite of the visually engaging world surrounding it the “Ghost in the Shell’s” plot is a bit of a mess. Its pacing is quite frankly all over the place, with long patches of time that are simply boring. It can be a lot of fun in its action sequences, but they’re few and far between, and it doesn’t help that a lot of the dramatic moments in between don’t land and end up being unengaging. But this is all symptomatic of a much larger issue, that it tries to do way too much in far too little time. The film repeatedly trying to ramp up and cool off to cover way too many events is the cause of a lot of its choppy pacing. None of its characters stand out because they’re too busy introducing new characters to really spend much time developing them. They even spend the majority of the film developing an antagonist just to have him fall to the wayside as they introduce a new one. It strikes me that “Ghost in the Shell” would have been much better as a high budget TV show. Instead it feels like someone tried to shove an entire season of episodes into two hours.