Ghost in the Shell (d. Rupert Sanders USA/UK/India/China/ Canada/New Zealand 2017)

Please read ‘On Reviews‘ for a guide to how I write film reviews. Any spoilers are appropriately marked and, though I personally prefer to know little about a film before seeing it, there is a synopsis at the bottom for any who wish to see one.


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So let’s talk Science Fiction. In brief, science fiction has gone from the meddling with science taking it to fictional tales about the misuse of technology, to epic looks at the future or alternative realities by advanced technology and involving complex robots or cyborgs. One of the films to influence a change in science fiction films is Blade Runner (d. Ridley Scott USA/Hong Kong/UK 1982/2007). Now Blade Runner tells of robots mimicking humans in a bid to understand what it means to be human, whilst also depicting a complex dystopian future, involving the impact of materialism and technology on a culture. That is a very small part of the film but the similarities between Blade Runner and Ghost in the Shell (a. Masamune Shirow Kodansha ltd. 1989-1990) are quite striking. Made into the film Kôkaku Kidôtai / Ghost in the Shell (d. Mamoru Oshii Japan/UK 1995) which became one of the most important anime series and its legacy can be felt as far as The Matrix (d. Wachowski Brothers USA/Australia 1999), Japanese Science Fiction Anime is simply huge. Unfortunately, western remakes of Asian cinema haven’t always been best kind. Each tend to meet with controversy and Ghost in the Shell (d. Rupert Sanders USA/UK/India/China/Canada/New Zealand 2017) is no exception. Before I could see this film people were angered by the casting of Scarlett Johansson as Motoko, interpreting this as whitewashing (asian roles being taken by white actors). Sufficed to say that this is an important film to many and it has a rich history and Japanese films have had a huge success with their series and their own anime series. Ghost in the Shell has a rich history however the primary focus of this review is of the film on its own merits. I also shan’t go into the controversial debate of whitewashing, which is complex and covered elsewhere. So this is, simply, Ghost in the Shell.


With most Science Fiction there is a heavy reliance on CGI, especially nowadays. Now Ghost in the Shell is no different and really tries to go above and beyond in depicting its future. A future that depicts such a dominance of technology that is infused into many of its characters. In fact visuals, particularly surrounding Major/Motoko (Johansson) are stunning. It’s something new and refreshing and all the while keeps the theme of its source material to such a degree to keep fans happy and newcomers impressed. In this future the scenery makes use of fake and real CGI to create a sense of a future dominated by technology. However, in a film dominated by CGI it runs the risk of making both the real and the fake look fake as if it is a videogame.

The performances by the central cast really carries the film into such important depths and there’s a real sense that they love the universe they’re in. Scarlett Johansson aside, Takeshi ‘Beat’ Kitano does some amazing work and brings credibility to a film already accused of whitewashing. The Universe is well established and the confusing heart of Motoko, as a character, really carries the film. However, the film doesn’t know how to end things and it feels rushed and as if what was building momentum suddenly drops off a cliff. Furthermore the antagonist isn’t given time to flesh out and really provide a challenge to the protagonist, Motoko.

All in all Ghost in the Shell is an impressive film and step forward with its use of visuals – even if not perfected. The story itself is powerful and constructed enough to work well and establish its universe. However, the story isn’t all it could be and there’s a sense that we’ve just begun. Having started to such a well-established and well built up beginning, it’s as if the end was never given to us. Perhaps there’s a lot more in store for the ghost in the shell.


In a world where technology is so advanced it can be installed on/in you, we have the first in advanced cyborg technology: Major/Motoko. Major/Motoko is a human brain installed in a highly efficient robot. However, Major/Motoko begins to question her origins and what and most importantly who she is – as well as why.

Further Reading

Official Site

Interview with Rupert Sanders

Interview with Cast

Interview with Scarlett Johansson

Bloopers/Behind the Scenes

Hollywood and Whitewashing

Ghost in the Shell Legacy

Ghost in the Shell Intro Recreation

Side by Side Comparison of Introductions

Ghost in the Shell (d. Rupert Sanders USA/UK/India/China/Canada/New Zealand 2017)

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