Ghost In The Shell Review

Ghost In The Shell is based on one of the most influential manga of all time (which I’ve never read) and one of the greatest anime films of all time (which I’ve never seen) and bearing that in mind, I have to ask- Do both of them resemble an uninspired remake of 1987 film classic Robocop?

I’m deadly serious- in a world where the government has either collapsed or become completely irrelevant, a person who was converted into a cyborg against their will fights systematic corruption inside their own corporation whilst under constant threat of being shut down or having their memories wipes whilst trying to work out where the machine ends and the human begins.

Hell there’s even a boss battle at the end against what might as well be ED-209.

But there’s none of the satire that made Robocop a classic, none of the epic violence that made this film stand out hell, there’s hardly any violence at all. The films 110 million dollar budget condemned it to a 12a rating which has limited what I imagine could have been several very exciting action scenes.

And as for the philosophical underpinnings about morality, memories defining us, what does it mean to be human and was the whitewashing controversy overblown? All the dialogue is so on the nose that I was quite surprised to find out that Christopher Nolan hadn’t ‘borrowed’ the script. Instead it turns out that Spielberg had the rights since 2008 and has resisted the urge to drown it in his trademark sugar.

The film is literally dark though- I think someone forgot to hire a lighting guy or decided to spend the lighting money on instead hiring the sides of more London busses.

They certainly spent money hiring a legendary director though- getting the one, the only… Rupert Sanders! Who has directed such timeless classics as Snow White and the Huntsman and… erm… literally nothing else. Good move there Dreamworks.

And naturally, for a film set in Japan, based off of Japanese source material  but with seemingly no Japanese involvement in either the writing, producing or cinematography, the whole thing seems to have been filmed in New Zealand. Which, did mean that the geishas featured in many of the films trailers wore physical full-head masks, created by Weta Workshop, modeled after Japanese actress Rila Fukushima. Even the opening or ‘exploding’ of the geishas’ heads was handled mechanically rather than by using CGI. Which would normally get a gold star from me but since they feature for about 10 seconds and everything else is bad CGI, I was just left wondering why they bothered putting so much effort into something that barely mattered.

There are some good things, the film has some gorgeous shots but since the film is based off of a manga i’m just going to assume that they were direct lifts rather from the source material rather than from originals from the Directors mind so no points from me there.

The characters are all stock and underdeveloped, with Scarlett putting in an amazing performance despite the inevitable whitewashing controversy that has followed this film around.But, in the words of   Mamoru Oshii (director of the original films) “The Major is a cyborg and her physical form is an entirely assumed one. The name ‘Motoko Kusanagi’ and her current body are not her original name and body, so there is no basis for saying that an Asian actress must portray her. Even if her original body (presuming such a thing existed) were a Japanese one, that would still apply … I can only sense a political motive from the people opposing it, and I believe artistic expression must be free from politics.”

Also, A female Japanese American writer, Yoshida, has written extensively about the transmutability of Major Kusanagi’s identity, and about the “racial mystery zone” that so much anime, including Ghost in the Shell, occupies. “Japanese audiences, unlike American audiences, don’t understand Motoko to be a Japanese character,” Yoshida writes. “Of course, it’s a different issue for Japanese Americans, who grew up forced to think about identity in a much more tactile way”.

According to Yoshida, “Japan is a nation of people who are almost 100% ethnically Japanese. Accordingly, the average Japanese citizen’s outlook on diversity is much less influenced by pluralism than the outlooks of many Asian Americans, who live in a country where popular culture rarely represents them well, if at all. Hence, many Japanese Americans may find Johansson’s casting in a Ghost in the Shell movie distressing, while native Japanese observers make nothing of it”

Because when asked Japanese  fans were surprised that the casting had caused controversy, as they had assumed that a Hollywood production would choose a white actress. They felt the appearance of the protagonist was immaterial due to the franchise’s themes of self-identity and the blurring of artificial and natural bodies.

Ghost In The Shell is a dull predictable 106 minute long slog with a few good performances and visual shots failing to save it from stagnation and being forgotten immediately. I have no idea why it was made or who it was made for and neither does anyone else from the state of the box office receipts.

My Score- Skip It 

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Kubo And The Two Strings Review

I am aware that this is the time of year when zombie films shuffle into cinemas in time for Halloween. However, traditionally this has meant films with zombies in and not genres that I had thought were long dead and buried.

Case in point- Kubo And The Two Strings, a title which seriously started to grate on me as soon as I realized that  the main characters instrument has three strings! Why couldn’t they just change that one little word? Little things like that could seriously annoy a man.

And I’m not too convinced by the casting of Matthew McConaughey as a samurai that’s been turned into a scarab and lost all his memories. For a film set in ancient Japan, his accent stands out and not entirely for the right reasons.  But the rest of this film is damn neear flawless.

Forget Zootopia this is the film that’s going to win best animated at the Oscars next year. Now the less you know about the plot going in, the better. All you’re getting out of me is that a young man has to go on a quest to acquire some magic armor in a bid to defeat an evil spirit.

Oh… and did I mention that this film is stop-motion? Actual honest to God stop-motion. And not only is it the longest stop-motion film ever (beating previous record holder Coraline by one whole minute) and not only does it feature the largest stop motion puppet ever – a skeleton which stands a massive sixteen feet tall! It took over five years to make! Five years! In that time Dreamworks could belch out and then ruin an entire franchise in that time! One single scene set on a boat took over 19 months to shoot.

And it was worth every single second because the film looks magnificent with almost very frame being a portrait. Every character developed and needed , with the film at times funny, charming, spellbinding, exciting and sad. I loved it from the opening seconds and cannot recommend it highly enough.

My Score- See It Now