Ghost in the Shell Movie Review: An Enjoyable Disappointment

Scarlett Johansson as The Major
Jasin Boland/Paramount Pictures

I ended up watching Ghost in the Shell over the weekend. So why not write a Ghost in the Shell movie review?

I guess if I had a TL:DR it would go something like this: I thought it was a good movie overall, despite critical pummeling and box office disappointment (as well as lingering controversy).

Visually, it looks amazing. I was in awe how much detail went in getting the look of the Ghost in the Shell universe right. Scarlet Johansson does a great job in her portrayal as “The Major.” She gets the character right (for the most part). There’s also a lot of fun callbacks to the various anime series, such as Batou’s basset hound Gabriel making a cameo, and various bits from other members of Section 9 (notably ragging on Togusa’s squeamishness about cyberization). The final scene with the spider tank battle is also fantastic, and again a great homage to the original movie. And lastly, I thought the working in of the Major’s true identity was touching and pretty clever.

One of the biggest problems with the film is its length. In my impressions of the trailer, one of my main concerns was a proper Ghost in the Shell narrative would be difficult to fit into a nice compact Hollywood movie length. The run time is only 106 minutes, and the movie as a whole definitely suffers for it. Ghost in the Shell story arcs are generally long running and complicated, usually uncovering some deep lurking and sophisticated cyber crime and tackling themes about identity. As a result, the movie is incredibly rushed, and we don’t get to have nearly enough time with any character outside of the Major, Batou, and Aramaki, which I found to be a profound disappointment. The compacted length causes the film to lose some of the atmosphere that makes Ghost in the Shell so unique, despite getting the look of the universe right.

With On-Demand TV series being all the rage, this might have made an excellent candidate for a Japanese import. It does seem to be the preferred format for somewhat riskier IPs than the Hollywood film format. I’m sure the rights battle might get in the way of such a project, but someone really should give it a try.

Either way, it was an enjoyable movie, warts and all. Of course, I am a different animal when it comes to evaluating movies, so don’t take my view as a recommendation. You might be better off listening to the critics. [Editor: And, folks, if that’s not glowing praise, I don’t know what is!]

The Major is unimpressed
Jasin Boland/Paramount Pictures
Miguel Justiniano
Libertarian. Ranter. Always takes the renegade interrupt. Horde4Life.

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