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A.I. Candy – Scarlett gets animated in Ghost in the Shell

Live action remake of a Manga movie is an IMAX sensation

30 March, 2017 — By Dan Carrier

Scarlett Johansson in The Ghost in the Shell

GHOST IN THE SHELL
Directed by Rupert Sanders
Certificate 15
☆☆☆☆

The Ghost in the Shell refers to a human soul trapped inside a robot’s body – a nice, romantic turn of phrase to consider the relationship between the human mind and the vessel that supports it.

This remake of an animated film by Mamoru Oshii not only blends a good thriller and some spectacular effects but poses questions about human identity and medical ethics.

Major (Scarlett Johansson) is a human brain transplanted into an automaton. She is told by her makers at hi-tech firm Anka that she was a refugee who drowned, her body useless but her brain saved, so she was given a new lease of life with a fairly indestructible bod to use.

She is now a government agent and her team are put on the trail of a terrorist who is wiping out scientists who have worked on the cyborg programme, threatening to do over her makers one by one.
But as she sets out to track down the baddie, she begins to discover that the motives for murderous mayhem may not be quite so clear cut.

We have, of course, been here before – there are a multitude of science fiction films that consider the human interface with machines that are, in the real world, continuing to play a larger and larger role in our lives. From cerebral dystopia as shown to us in Blade Runner through to cheap imitations such as Will Smith’s AI, the ground this film covers tries to offer fresh vistas but we’ve already been to the top of the soaring CGI skyscrapers in these future cities and gazed at the view.

There has been discussion as to whether casting Johansson is disrespectful to the original source, whether there should have been a Japanese actor.

If you are going to take a Japanese classic and reboot it with a Hollywood actress, the question could be asked why not just whisk the whole thing across the Pacific and set it in, say, Los Angeles? So often with this type of cross-cultural story pinching, an important atmosphere would have been lost by doing this. The fact the lead clearly isn’t Japanese is simply overwhelmed by the action. A bigger gripe could be focusing not on her ethnicity but why having such a curvy robot is necessary.

No matter. Johansson is a great lead, there is enough darkness to keep you on your toes, and watching in an IMAX is a sensory experience worth taking in.

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