Escape Velocity

A curated Collection of Fantasy and Science Fiction Media

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Major Mira Kilian is a cyborg, a human ghost in an android shell, who hunts for terrorists as part of Section 9, a shady special ops force of the Japanese government. She remembers little of her past before her brain was transplanted, but when she goes after a cybercriminal who is hunting the very scientists who created her, Major is confronted with some uncomfortable questions on who she really is.


When I reviewed the Mamuro Oshii animated version of Ghost in the Shell, I praised the visuals to high heaven and lamented that Japanese story telling has a tendency to buckle under the pressure of the third act. So when I sat down to watch Rupert Sanders’ (who?) live action version, I was looking forward to a plot with a stronger structure and a more grounded conclusion.

I was disappointed.

Given the deep mediocrity of this movie’s script, I think rating it 2 stars is actually rather generous.

The live action Ghost in the Shell is a perfectly passable, forgettable, 13-to-a-dozen Hollywood action movie. Just slightly boring, but inoffensive in its mediocrity, a good solution to a craving for something mindless to put on while scrolling on your phone on the couch.

I believe it really only has three claims to fame: (i) it is a remake of a cult classic; (ii) it stars Scarlett Johansson; (iii) there was some woke controversy over casting a virtually all non-Japanese cast in a movie set in Japan (click that link, I know you want the drama). If not for those things, I’m guessing we would all already have forgotten this version of Ghost in the Shell even exists.

I’m trying to think of any way in which it improved upon the animated version of the same movie, but I’m having a tough time. In fact, I think the live action version of the movie is at its best when it mimics the classic visual shots from the animated movie. Which makes you wonder, why are you watching this if you could be watching the animated version of the movie instead?

Don’t get me wrong, I have watched much worse movies. The live action Ghost in the Shell is not terrible. The visuals are good and occasionally even great. The action is spectacular, though not in any way that sets it apart from action we’ve seen before. You get to look at Scarlett Johansson in a skin-tight suit. It ticks all the boxes we expect an action movie to tick.

It’s just… so pointless. Why remake a movie if you’re not going to improve upon it in any way?

I’m especially disappointed with the writers, who took it upon themselves to include a Message ™ in the movie and then COMPLETELY botched it. I’m actually so mad at the lost potential that I might write up a Fiction Fix just to rant about it. The script is where this movie could have so easily improved upon (or lets at least say, added to) its source material.

Instead, we get a failed attempt at philosophy and a liberal sprinkling of narrative dead ends and cringe. ScarJo tries her best on the terrible lines she’s given. So does Juliette Binoche. Pilou Asbaek actually makes Batou kind of work. But some of the toe-curling dialogue doomed them to failure right from the start. In a movie that is all about the rule of cool, even the main characters only just manage to clear that bar.

Ah well. Go watch the movie if you want to, there’s worse ways to spend a rainy evening. But don’t blame me if you forget to pause it when you go to the toilet.

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