a review by the Crow & the Azure-Winged Magpie.
(Apologies it’s taken me so long to get around to this. We’ve been mulling over this one for the past 48 hours or so, and I’ve no clue how I’m going to summarise everything.) But that said, let’s find out…
HOW MUCH GHOST EXISTS IN THIS SHELL
OPENING THOUGHTS | THE CROW
Where do I even begin with this?
Ever since the first trailer for the movie dropped, I’ve been writing out drafts as sorts-of “previews” to it, but none of them ever felt right enough for me to actually publish. I’ll be using some of the more recent material I’ve written about the movie from those previews in this section, and man, did I have a lot to say.
To begin with, let’s go over the intro from the latest post I’d been working on:
NOTE: Thanks to our ridiculous schedule (which we’re trying to fix up so that things fly a little smoother in these winds), this preview is due to go up sometime after we’ve seen the actual movie and started writing our reviews of it.
Recently, I’ve gone over quite some material relating to the Ghost in the Shell franchise. Ideally, I’d have liked to tackle more of the series before addressing this latest live-action adaption, but I’ve only been able to cover the first three movies so far.
As a huge fan of the franchise, it’s only to my shame that I haven’t gone any further until now.
The initial plan was to review the 1995 Oshii-directed Ghost in the Shell, and thereafter continue into the manga, before taking a look at Stand Alone Complex 1st GIG, Innocence, 2nd GIG, Solid State Society, and finally, review the Arise series (which I initially disliked) in turn, culminating with Ghost in the Shell: The New Movie.
Now, of course the Stand Alone Complex GIGs would have been a monumental task, and it’s for the best that I skipped straight to Solid State Society, but I’m still disappointed that I didn’t have the time to explore the series to a greater degree before walking into the 2017 instalment.
Ever since I realised it was inevitable, that it was going to happen, regardless of whether I liked it or not.
And initially, things looked really bad, to my eyes.
Now, don’t quote me on any of this first part, but I’m writing this at stupid-o’-clock in the night (Hello, future-people!) and am just flowing straight from memory.
I recall that the reason this live-action Ghost in the Shell was fast-tracked through production was that the rights to it were going to revert and they absolutely HAD to make a movie (or something like that). These were the thoughts in my head when I first heard they were seriously considering giving the franchise a run via Hollywood.
And before anyone gets me wrong… just that shouldn’t spell doom for the project. Fast-tracked or not, a good team can certainly turn out a good movie, regardless of the circumstances.
It was someone like Spielberg (far as I recall) who’d originally optioned the rights, and the moment the movie became a reality, there was some other director (with only one prior credit to his name) in line all asudden. And he’d had some random Snow White movie as his only credit.
Oh dear me.
Now, I do have a slight issue with some of Spielberg’s more recent work in SF (which I’ll get around to, some day), but I’d much have preferred him over some guy who’d only done one project at the outset.
But maybe this guy at the helm is a genius and we just don’t know it yet.
And after said announcement, I forgot about the idea that this was actually going to be a movie that would exist (probably just to mask my terror). But then, one day, I hear that Scarlett Johannson’s been cast as “Major”.
That news was the first glittering of hope I had. That’s a solid choice. Now, I do quite think that all this arguing over the idea that Ms Johannson shouldn’t have been cast as “Major” is quite a bit stupid, especially when it’s Ghost in the Shell we’re talking about. Do the idiots arguing that there should’ve been a Japanese actress in the role know anything about the franchise? If anything, all this casting choice does is add to the sort of conversation the Ghost in the Shell franchise inspires.
Now, my own fan-cast, I’ll let go of (and she is Japanese and all), and will never again name. But I was happy with the choice they made. Somewhere down the line, I heard Margot Robbie was in early talks to take on the role before she got sidelined with Suicide Squad (and what a disappointment that movie was).
At the time, I didn’t know Margot Robbie as much. Mum-Crow hadn’t watched Home & Away or Neighbours in years, so I didn’t have the usual ‘Hey! I remember [INSERT NAME HERE] from [INSERT NAME OF SHOW HERE]’, and in hindsight, I’m happy she’s not the one at the forefront.
No offence to Ms Robbie, but not knowing her range, I find Johannson the superior choice. She has the ability to pull the Major’s aura off, without doubt.
And then, some months ago, the teaser surfaced, and I started writing that post about what I thought after a quick phone call to an old friend (soon to appear on The Corvid Review as a guest-reviewer).
I just went back and took a look at that old post. It is… colourful. Almost AW-Magpie levels of colourful. While it doesn’t show up as much in that post, I was actually so disappointed that I ranted and raved about it. But I didn’t project that to anyone but that old friend and the Cat (my mortal enemy) because I wanted this new Ghost in the Shell to do well. This franchise is one of my most major inspirations. I cannot do it a disservice, and I want anyone handling it to do a good job of it.
Now, those were my thoughts from before I saw this movie, and I must admit that there are certain things which’ve thrown me for a bit of a loop since having seen it.
I yet haven’t pinned down my final thoughts on the film completely, but I do think time is of the essence, considering it’s just-out. And we like to be early birds.
Before I carry on, I’ll just point out that this post, while long, is going to be (mostly) spoiler-free. At some point in the future, I’ll go in-depth into this new instalment in the franchise.
However, that said: I have a bone to pick with certain people.
As I’ve said time and again in my many previews, and in real life, the Ghost in the Shell franchise re-invents itself with every new incarnation. Anyone who compares this live-action version to any prior instalment, and especially those expecting a carbon-copy of the original Oshii movie, is a well bit asinine.
And one further question: did they really think a full-blown GITS remake (let’s go all the way… a shot-for-shot remake starring a Japanese actress who’s otherwise unknown in the States) even work?!
Does SAC have anything to do with the Oshii movies? Does the Arise series have anything to do with them OR SAC?! They all share the same DNA, but they’re wholly different projects. That’s just what the Ghost in the Shell franchise does.
And I’ll leave that point at that.
Let’s just take a look at the movie:
REVIEW | THE CROW
WARNING: THIS REVIEW CONTAINS [VERY MINOR] SPOILERS
We’re introduced to this new iteration of Ghost in the Shell by a sequence which serves as an amalgamation of things related to different parts of the storied Ghost in the Shell franchise. It’s almost a homage to the franchise as a whole (with the notable exception of Arise). It’s a lovely mix of the openings to Oshii-sama’s original movie, the intro to the very beginning of Stand Alone Complex, and the intro sequence to Innocence.
But after that sequence, which is okay far as intros go, and even kind-of cool, although it somehow manages not to feel quite ‘right’…
We get to the meat of the story. We follow “Major”, someone who was recreated from the pieces of a young woman who was terribly injured following an incident some years ago (side-note: a good friend of mine has just told me tonight that a cousin of hers has been really horrifically injured in a road accident. He’s currently in a bad state and has been rushed into surgery at the time of this writing, so please let’s all just wish him well).
Oh, and by the way, we also get a shelling sequence (and it’s surprisingly good).
Over the course of the movie, in a first for “Major”, she starts tracking down who she used to be. It only helps that the case Public Security Section 9 (her outfit) is working on happens to relate to said past.
Now, to address the elephant in the room…: remember how I spoke about loving (and defending the choice to make) Scarlett Johannson taking up the role of the Major? Welp… here we go.
I personally thought she did an amazing job as Major. She looks the part, she handles the part.
With that out of the way… while I don’t want to be overly-controversial (although that’s more the Magpie telling me to calm the fuck down because I launch into these things at full-flap), there is a little aspect of the story relating to “Major” that I don’t know if I’m all that okay with. And yes, it has something to do with Scarlett Johannsson being in the Major’s shoes. It’s an in-universe explanation, and I’m a little surprised the went for it, although I can see why.
Given that this is a spoiler-free review, I won’t be addressing it now. But consider this a marker that I will when we do the full review.
At the end of the day, all I can say is I think Scarlett Johannson performed admirably, and quite liked her performance. This is a new Major, following new rules, in a new world. Let’s go with it for now.
I was actually quite fond of how they dealt with Kuze (played by Michael Pitt). He is an amalgam, as they said he would be. And while there’s a big opportunity missed with his character (thanks to recent events in the world of politics, which I can’t fault since movies are always constrained by their runtimes), I quite enjoyed seeing him as the “big bad”.
I really, really don’t want to spoil this movie, but I’m happy with what they’ve done with the story. It’s not on the level of your average outing in Ghost in the Shell, but considering the audience in question and the common fare that makes money, it’s a decent adaptation.
One of my biggest issues with the initial teaser was the scene where Section 9 Chief Daisuke Aramaki seems to have just shot someone. That, I felt, wasn’t very Aramaki-like, but when you get around to the scene, you realise it does actually make sense. Just like everything else, this is a new Aramaki (played by the legendary Beat Takeshi, no less) and is just another example of the franchise re-inventing itself.
It’s not perfect, no. But I appreciate the effort. I really do.
Rupert Sanders and his team have done their best, and I’m happy to say I was wrong about my fears to do with a new-ish director taking over the franchise. The love shows through, although it doesn’t quite hit the bullseye.
Yes, it’s “dumbed-down”. But to be honest, it’s the best way (yet) to introduce the franchise to the larger public. You just cannot lump Ghost in the Shell, full-force onto random people and expect them to like it. The franchise is too heavy-handed for outsiders, and it needs to restrain itself just to slip into the public consciousness.
And I’m saying that as a hardcore fan of the series, and as an enthusiastic proponent of it.
Now, I say again that it’s not perfect. But it’s the best way to present a franchise like Ghost in the Shell to a wider public. It’s very action-oriented, but restrained as well. It’s got the questions, but keeps itself from going too deep into it.
The world of the movie looks good. I almost felt the thought and care that went into this. And I was so scared (apart from the fish!) when I first saw it.
I’m happy to be wrong. The team behind this really cared about this project. And as an outsider who cares about it a lot, I’m happy to see the project in the hands of people who care just as much. Everything I thought might go wrong… a lot of it didn’t.
The score is absolutely amazing, and even as a purist, and someone who hates dubstep, I can’t fault this. The visuals are lush. It’s not a 10/10, but it could’ve easily been if it was the first adaptation of the franchise.
REVIEW | THE AZURE-WINGED MAGPIE
(◔ ‿ ◔✿)
So I prettied myself up and went to go see this with dopey-old-man-Crow (I need to see him in a suit more often!) And I was totally expecting to be sadface after watching it.
And… Yeah. I kinda liked it. And I’m surprised I did.
I was a hater at the start as well since I’m a big fan of the series and all. I thought I’d hate this shit. But it was good.
Now. Okay. There’s something I just have to get off my chest.
While we were watching the film, there was this lot near us in the audience who kept tutting and chattering whenever ScarJo showed up on screen. And they got in my way. I could hear individual words. And it’s not like they were sitting right next to us or anything.
Do these pillocks know that they’re the ones being racist right now?! Just fucking watch the film and let other people do the same. Have some bleeding manners.
(In this case, I’m actually the calmer one. Don’t anyone ever call the other guy a ‘POC’. He’ll go ape-shit if you rub him the wrong way. And even I don’t like how he gets when he goes ape-shit. Friendly warning!)
I’m kinda happy with this film. I can’t say too much right now, but I thought everything about it was kinda good. Yeah… it’s not the best Ghost in the Shell to have Ghost in the Shelled, but damn, son… it done it’s job real nice n’ shiny.
So… I loved this feature.
Here. Let me drop a few pennies in about the ScarJo thing:
I don’t see the whole deal about the race issue. I’m half-Japanese and half-English (though I’m not really a good Japanese person). No one in Japan’s complaining – including the bits of the family from what I know. And while the Crow’s not so sure about what he feels about that little secret-story detail, I honestly couldn’t give a squirrel’s-left nut about it.
From a story detail way of looking at things? Yeah. I’m not sure if it works or not either. But that’s not what I’m talking about here.
(Fun fact: the majority of the people who’re complaining are upper-middle-class Westerners in their cushy homes. Go figure.)
Get off it. It’s not a big deal. You want to fight actual discrimination? Fight it. Be better people rather than whinge about and accept (mostly falsely-expected) handouts from people who you ‘think’ owe it to you.
I get that kids need relatable characters growing up. But honestly… this film is the exact opposite of what you should be complaining about. I’m really kind of pissed off about this whole ‘controversy’ thing. There are other things out there (Avatar for one – and more around these days) that supply that shit.
I’m not even all that culturally Japanese. And I didn’t once think for a moment that ScarJo getting the role was wrong. Mostly no one in Japan did, either.
I’m kind of angry at all the people writing the film off for that one fact. Just watch the damn thing and look at what it is. It’s a mo-[REDACTED]-ing film for fucks’ sake. And you people harmed it before it even came out. For that ONE reason.
To get back to the film… they did most of the central characters right. The Crow was worried about how they’d do Batou thanks to the early glimpses. But that was one of the bits I thought would be good. And he was good. And Beat Takeshi=Aramaki?! Oyassplz.
Good work on display here.
THE CROW: 6.5/10
Not the best rendition, but a really good effort. Top credits to the team behind it.
THE AZURE-WINGED MAGPIE: 9/10
Fuckin’ loved it! We’ll do a full (analytical) review soon!
Here’s a look at one of the official posters (in Frog-language):