Screen Anarchists On: GHOST IN THE SHELL (Live Action)

Editor, Europe; Rotterdam, The Netherlands (@ardvark23)
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I don't think we've ever featured a title more fit to be given a group-review than Rupert Sanders' live-action adaptation of Ghost in the Shell. A huge-scale re-imagining of several beloved source materials, the film is literally surrounded by expectations and controversy. The fact that it stars Scarlett Johansson has in itself already been a source of much (dis)content.

Its box office so far is disappointing, culprits are sought, fingers pointed, and opinions differ. So what did we make of it, here at Screen Anarchy? Our Pierce Conran did the official review, and his take was actually a very positive one which you can read here. Others among us were decidedly less friendly towards it. Divisiveness in opinion is awesome, so once again we had a quick round-up of opinions about the film, and have put them up here for all to see, in a gallery.

As usual, we let the writer of the review speak up first, so here is Pierce! But click through them all to see our opinions on the film. Each opinion is valid in its own way, and so is yours, so please leave your own impression in the comments...

Pierce Conran, Kwenton Bellette, Kurt Halfyard, Peter Martin, Stuart Muller and contributed to this story.

Pierce Conran, Contributor.

Ten days or so after having first seen it, I can’t say that the new Ghost in the Shell has exhibited much staying power. Sanders was perhaps too faithful to the original, albeit more formally than spiritually, resulting in a ravishing update that was all shell and no ghost.

Given the film’s poor start on the charts, many critics have come out once more to deem the film an unnecessary remake and a blatant case of whitewashing. I’m loath to insert myself into those discussions but I personally don’t see a major problem with remakes and I’m don’t really buy into the whitewashing controversy on this one.

Yes, many remakes are cash grabs, but since stories were first shared through spoken word thousands of years ago, storytellers have always sought to tap pre-existing content. It’s the nature of the business, from Disney franchises all the way down to arthouse fare all around the globe. I would prefer if more big-budget remakes were better, but I don’t begrudge studios the right to purchase and adapt content, even something like Ghost in the Shell, which is an obvious candidate for a remake, despite what some may say.

The whitewashing argument is trickier, but given that this a remake of a Japanese title by an American studio for an international market and that the location of the story in both is New Liberty City, a deliberately global sounding metropolis that was based more on Hong Kong than Tokyo, I don’t see why the studio is any way obliged to cast someone of any particular ethnicity. Yes, it’s troubling that the lead of a Hollywood blockbuster is almost always white, but that’s an industry problem, and not one related to cultural appropriation.

Furthermore, the idea that someone ‘Asian’ should have been cast can also be problematic. While I would love to have seen a global Ghost in the Shell with someone like Bae Doona in the lead, that would have quelled whitewashing arguments in the west, but some Japanese fans may not have been wild about seeing someone Korean taking on an originally Japanese role.

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ZetobeltApril 6, 2017 9:56 AM

Ard, they are "four actresses of Japanese descent". The key word is "descent". They are not japanese actresses. And if you'd talk to real japanese actresses, for several reasons, they won't tackle the issue. Cause they are actresses and no philosophers. Or mainly because japanese people, and more if they are public persons, don't touch prickly questions.

KurtApril 6, 2017 10:15 AM

I agree with you 100%, Stuart. This new version is fundamentally different in its intent and ideas because we are in 2017, not 1995. This is a good thing.

Ard VijnApril 6, 2017 10:39 AM

I can't believe I'm actually the least positive of all the contributors in this effort. Everyone is entitled to his opinion of course... but are you guys all blind and stupid?!

I'm joking of course. But I AM still surprised by how up-beat this whole edition is...

Ard VijnApril 6, 2017 10:46 AM

Jeez, I just called them "these four ladies".
Go heckle The Hollywood Reporter for their own particular brand of insensitivity. ;-)

Niels MatthijsApril 6, 2017 10:53 AM

Which is why all the fanboy pandering is hard to swallow. Why make a new film out of a patchwork extracted from the other films and series when you want to do something different? Because it wants to be all things at once, it ends up being nothing much of anything.

Niels MatthijsApril 6, 2017 10:55 AM

Don't ask them "where they're from" though, they'll throw a fit and tell you they're "American". At least, wasn't that what that youtube vid from 1-2 years ago was about?

Ard VijnApril 6, 2017 11:12 AM

Agree with Niels 100%.

Ard VijnApril 6, 2017 11:13 AM

Thing is, they ARE American.

KurtApril 6, 2017 11:16 AM

With the H-Wood franchising mentality, the one thing it ends up being, and is pretty good at it, is introducing the Live-Action World of GITS for a possible Franchise. Now the USA box-office will likely put the kibosh on any further chapters, but I'm guessing that was part of the intent. Every studio wants these huge Franchises, many of them fail to launch. GITS is one of those. Too bad.

ZetobeltApril 6, 2017 11:45 AM

That was my point. They ARE americans. Consequently they think like americans and they opinions are more american than japanese.

ZetobeltApril 6, 2017 11:48 AM

> This new version is fundamentally different in its intent and ideas because we are in 2017, not 1995.

I don't think that's the main reason. It's different because it was made in a completely differente country/culture/society.

That why many (all?) Hollywood remakes of foreign films fails miserably.

ZetobeltApril 6, 2017 11:49 AM

Except for one, they are all on the negative side.

Niels MatthijsApril 6, 2017 1:47 PM

Unless they would've gone for a Japanese director (with some level of carte blanche), I'm pretty glad this isn't going to be a franchise. I watched it to be part of the conversation, but it was basically 12EUR down the drain. I'd rather not do that again.

And do we really need more franchises in theaters? I usually don't complain about originality because Hollywood is a little out of the way for me and in the margin there are still plenty of nifty, original films being made, but with Marvel, Pixar, LucasArts (all Disney really) and wannebes like DC I'm just tired of seeing all the reports and fanboy gushings about sequels, spin-offs, tie-ins and whatnot.

I'm just glad this is tanking. Let it die and next year most of us will have forgotten this thing was ever made.

Niels MatthijsApril 6, 2017 1:48 PM

Oh I agree, I just wonder why none of them said "hey guys, maybe we're not the ones you should be talking to for this article of yours". :p

KurtApril 6, 2017 2:22 PM

I'm not saying what we need. I'm saying what we are going to get with Publicly traded Studio Corporations running the show, and reporting to their shareholders.

Niels MatthijsApril 6, 2017 2:24 PM

Ah, I think I interpreted your "too bad" in reference to "fail to launch", not to "GitS is one of those"!

Todd HarringtonApril 6, 2017 2:47 PM

My boy, ten, had a two word review: "Beautiful. Boring." I had to agree.

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PatApril 7, 2017 3:20 AM

I really enjoyed it. It was very very fun. That's one of the main reasons I go see films. To be entertained. Was it shallow and hollow, yes it was, but I'm find with that. Did I go into it expecting it to be exactly what it turned out to be, surprisingly yes. But I also was surprised in other ways like that the film wasn't as big of a train wreck as I thought. (Let's all remember Assault Girls people! And who made that sequel/whatever it was again?....)

I like design porn, Shirow Masamune likes design porn, and this film is porn... Sweet sweet Blade Runner-esque porn.

Also why isn't anyone talking about Michael Pitt!?? Dear lord he was amazing! He moved and talked like a glitchy stuttering cyborg cat with extreme anger issues. It just sucks he literally only has two acting scenes.

omnisemantic1April 7, 2017 6:53 AM

Screw that movie. Read this:
My man is back in business :D

Ard VijnApril 7, 2017 7:14 AM


curtvileApril 7, 2017 11:26 AM

As I do not live under a rock I had heard the whitewashing accusations, which the movie for a hollywood piece handled well. It was more visually stunning and very faithfull to animes, the movies and parts of the series, yet had some stuff it's own.
Screenaanrchy reviews one could recognize the movie though, maybe a tad harsh for what the movie was, but nothing compared to our local "movie critics".
Pilou Asbæk and Beat Takeshi Kitano almost stole the movie yet Scvarlett Johansson brought enough of Under the Skin to Major.
I thinkit will be like Dredd: commercially failed but a cult movie, either hated without seeing or loved even with problems.

Yeah I liked the movie. It was not great, but not as bad as is said in any sense.

Ard VijnApril 8, 2017 4:49 AM

Really? Tally:
-Pierce: "it's a worthy effort that shouldn't give diehard purists much to scoff about." positive
-Kwenton: "too much is lost in the adaptation" negative
-Kurt: "I quite like GHOST IN THE SHELL 2017" positive
-Peter: "enjoyed the experience for what it is: a b-movie writ large and familiar" positive
-Me: "only comes truly alive during its original content. But oh, how little of that there is..." negative
-Stuart: "both sides are beautiful to behold." overwhelmingly positive
-Jason: really liked it, beautiful retro film with a message. positive

That's a 5 - 2 win on the positive side.

ZetobeltApril 8, 2017 9:37 PM

Maybe I read them biased ;-)
-Pierce: "all shell and no ghost". Negative
-Kewton: "but the film is sadly lacking a ghost". Negative
-Kurt: "Ghost In The Shell more than anything resembles 1988’s Robocop in story". Negative (for me)
-Peter: "a b-movie". Negative
-You: "Unfortunately, for its skeleton they looked entirely elsewhere: they went with Paul Verhoeven's Robocop, though they first excised all wit and satire from it". Negative
-Stuart: "The new ghost is merged with machine". Positive
-Jason: "The movie is Bladerunnery and Robocopy". Negative (For me). "People who really love the anime (...) may don't like it". Bingo!
When I read a film review, I don't only read it literary. Also I do a lot of "between the lines reading". ;-)

StuApril 10, 2017 4:02 PM

I watched it again last week, this time with my wife. I thoroughly enjoyed it, again, though some of the more heavy-handed Hollywoodisms bothered me more this time - most notably the spelling-it-out-for-audiences, particularly in the first act. I think many times this is the crux of what "fails" in the translation of Japanese films to the west; the loss of that subtle sense of fuzziness that American audiences in particular despise. That blurriness is often compounded by translation to subtitles, not to mention the very real differences in cultural frames of reference that Zetobelt is referring to. But damn is American films don't have to be spelled out, and thereby stripped of any subtle ether in which the meaning of things is a sense rather than a point.