Scarlett Johansson is the first cyborg human who kicks butt in the live-action version of Masamune Shirow’s “Ghost in the Shell.”
“Ghost in the Shell” begins when a lifeless cyborg is rolled into the hospital room of Hanka Headquarters in Hong Kong. We see images of a brain attaching to the cyborg. The cyborg is dipped in paint and soon, Major (Johansson) is born. Dr. Ouelet (Juliette Binoche) explains that Major’s ghost, or personality, is the same. But her new body is a shell. Major is the first cyborg with a human brain.
One year later, Major stands on a rooftop overseeing a futuristic metropolis with lights and holograms everywhere. With special communication programs, Major listens to her master, Aramaki (Takeshi Kitano). With her high-definition x-ray vision, Major sees an important meeting between a technology company and an African tribe.
A geisha enters the room with tea, but goes rogue. Despite Aramaki’s commands to stay put, Major leaps off the building, disappears (like Fantastic Four’s Invisible Woman) and bursts through the window. She kills the geisha, another cyborg.
Major and her loyal partner, Batou (Pilou Asbæk) return to Section 9 of the Hanka Robotics Company. They see Dr. Dahlin (Anamaria Marinca) and ask who the geisha belongs to. Dr. Dahlin doesn’t know. Major immediately decides to do a deep dive into the geisha’s hard drive to search for information.
Batou and Dahlin hook her up to the geisha through wires. When inside, Major sees a hooded figure and gets “hacked” by monsters that dogpile her. When Batou and Dahlin cancel the dive, Major wakes up and experiences glitches. She sees an image of a house everywhere she goes. Since her memories are shot, she doesn’t know why the glitches keep occurring. Her quest for her memories and the mysterious hacker (Michael Pitt) begins.
This film received a lot of backlash–choosing Johansson instead of an Asian woman for the lead –but Johansson is superb as Major. Johansson looked exactly like Major from the anime with the same hair and skin color.
Major wants to understand where she came from and who she is (something all humans can relate to) and it’s powerful. Her lack of memories match Wolverine to a tee.
Deep down, I wish “Ghost in the Shell” was rated R. The action scenes could have included dismemberment of limbs and blood. Maybe I’m still on cloud nine from recently watching the violence in “The Godfather” and “Underworld” sagas. Asbæk’s performance as Batou was good too. He’s a man who means business, but has a soft spot for Major and dogs.
“Ghost in the Shell” is a joyride from start to finish. I wouldn’t mind seeing it in theaters again.
Studio: Paramount (1 hr. 47 min)
Cast: Scarlett Johansson, Pilou Asbæk, Takeshi Kitano, Juliette Binoche, Michael Pitt, Chin Han, Lasarus Ratuere, Peter Ferdinando
Director: Rupert Sanders
Story: A human-cyborg seeks information about her memories while chasing a villain across a futuristic metropolis.
Final Score: B+