Within minutes of the announcement of Scarlett Johansson being cast in the lead role of the live-action reimagining of the popular 1995 anime, Ghost In The Shell, the internet exploded as every social justice keyboard warrior cracked their knuckles and released hell on Paramount and the producers of the film. Now, one month after the same issue of whitewashing came up in the Universal Pictures actioner The Great Wall came and went without much renewal of that fire, Ghost In The Shell hits screens. Having seen the film, and just like that unfortunate Matt Damon film, it was all much ado about nothing. Heck, I think the supposed whitewashing actually fits into the story but more to come on that.
For those unfamiliar with the acclaimed anime film, Ghost In The Shell takes place in a near-future Japan and opens with the brain of Major (Johansson) being put into her “shell”, a fully cyber created body by the massive corporation Hanka, after a terrorist act destroys her human body. A year after her “rebirth”, we find Major working for Hanka under Aramaki (“Beat” Takeshi Kitano) as the leader of a task force employed to take down the most dangerous criminals in the city. As she dispatches person after person, it becomes evident that there is a singular being behind all of the crimes she’s been fighting and it appears to be connected to the Major herself.
So, that pesky whitewashing thing? It actually factors into the movie’s storyline. Without going into much detail or butting up against spoiler territory, there is a recurring plot point of seeing Hanka as a company run by rich, white Europeans who look to be “whitening” Japan with its body enhancements. Many would argue that this isn’t any sort of justification but I believe with this version of the story making the Major white isn’t a knock against or a gloss over of the Japanese people. Plus, Scarlett Johansson is really great as Major, exhibiting the action chops we know she has and bringing a synthetic looking beauty to our main character.
Now is that my whole defense of the movie that is seeming to be getting killed by other critics? I’m not going to start by saying it’s a fantastic film but it certainly is entertaining and there isn’t a single moment that goes by that isn’t mesmerizingly gorgeous. The movie’s faults are that it has a deficit it the soul department and has little to no rising or falling tone. Johansson continues on the genre trajectory she started with Lucy, a film that had no impact on me whatsoever, and makes a tight little sci-fi action story that is nothing short of entertaining and, really, in the day and age of many wastes of screen time, can we ask for anything more. Many of the Ghost In The Shell purists will hate this film and the controversy has already done its potential audience damage but this is something that many anime fans want to succeed so we can see more like it and I think this is a decent base to build on. 3.5/5