Ghost in the Shell (2017)

Ghost in the Shell (2017) Cover

The live action remake of Ghost in the Shell succeeds at capturing the visual style of the original, but drops the deeper ideas. This is an achievement in style and design that excels so well at visuals, acting, and pacing that most will be able to forgive that it has very little to say.

There is not a single frame of this movie that lacks weight. It is one of the most meticulously constructed films that I have ever seen. Every shot contains enough visual information as to deserve thoughtful consideration. The style of the original is perfectly preserved, evoking a sense of world building that hasn’t been seen since Blade Runner. Both frightening and compelling, this new world is beautiful and ugly, spacious and oppressive. It’s visual success is a testament to the design of the original given how faithfully it recreates the look and feel of the anime it is based on.

I think the acting here is particularly interesting. It isn’t outright good, exactly. What is fascinating is how the cast works to evoke the feel of the characters from the source material. It’s a display of tremendous skill and effort that may feel like a flaw. I found it compelling, and that direction worked to make the world feel more real. This was really important, because the world itself is the most important character. Many of the questions abandoned from the original can still be felt in design of the city itself. This dedication to recreating that style of movement bridges the gap between the original and the remake. It also ensures that audiences will remember this as a landmark work of gorgeous cyberpunk fiction.

Aggressively paced with a more cohesive vision, it’s fair to say that abandoning those deeper ideas improved the film. Director Rupert Sanders forces us to ask if a movie can be better despite having less to say. By cutting out the questions of identity that drive the original, the new Ghost in the Shell manages to be a more focused action film. Is that better, though? I don’t think so. Sadly, I feel that while this work will persevere as an important visual work, and as a memorable action film, that it is lesser than the original. By having less to say about how we define self and the nature of existence, it falls short. I would rather have a flawed movie that tried to say more, than a great movie with no voice.

Ultimately, Ghost in the Shell is an above average summer popcorn flick. It’s a landmark work of visual style will have it stand out for years to come, though it is difficult to let go of the feeling that it could have been more. Audiences who haven’t seen the original wont miss what they never had. Fans of the original will still be able to appreciate the incredible visual achievement. Though this could have been something really special, it is still a fantastic and enjoyable action film that I highly recommend.

Final Verdict:A beautiful action movie dripping with the style of the original that drops the bigger ideas.