Ghost in the Shell 2017 Movie Review



Live action, Hollywood version of Ghost in the Shell. Like most anime adaptations, expect fans to be annoyed regardless of what they do. In this case the white-washing argument dominated early reviews of the movie. Ignoring all of that, its a movie about a girl who is given an artifical body but finds out her memories are also artificial and then seeks out the truth.


A while ago, and I do mean a while ago given it was a few months now, I had the chance to spend a few days in a town with a cinema and took full advantage of it by pretty much spending each evening trying a different movie (its usually about six months in between cinema visits so yes, I over indulge when given the opportunity). One of the movies I watched last time was the Ghost in the Shell live action movie with Scarlett Johansson in the lead role. I’m going to be clear in that while I have watched some of the anime franchise releases I am not a fan of the Ghost in the Shell anime. Mostly I found it to be a bit dull (and I just lost every fan of the anime right then and there). With that said, I actually wanted to see what Hollywood would do with this movie because the basic concept in the anime was kind of cool.

What this means is I didn’t go in wanting a faithful re-enactment of a source or a true Ghost in the Shell experience. I wanted to see a futuristic story play out in an interesting manner. From that point of view I actually wasn’t too disappointed even if some of the film leaves itself open for criticism. I also viewed this with someone who never watches anime. When I said I was interested in seeing the film they said they thought the trailer looked interesting. I pointed out it was based on an anime and they looked stunned. They showed me the trailer they had watched and yeah, no mention of the fact it was based on an anime. So I had the interesting experience of watching it with someone with no knowledge of the previous franchise and the discussion after about what was good or not about the film was fairly entertaining.


Anyway, the reason for all of that is a lot of the reviews I read of this film prior to getting to see it were comparison based. They looked at the scenes that were essentially re-enactments of anime sequences and they looked at Johansson’s performance as the Major. Some gave it a nod, a lot tore it to pieces, and occasionally you even got to read a review that actually reviewed the movie as a stand alone piece of entertainment.

Let’s start with the positives about this film.

It has a great setting. Visually it is fun to look at and fairly reminiscent of Blade Runner or the Fifth Element, but mostly it just looks and feels like a real futuristic place. It looks lived in and used and feels like something that might eventuate for our cities the way things are going. As the characters move around in this setting there’s a lot of rich background detail which just adds to the overall feel of immersion in the world they are trying to create. Where the setting starts to fall down is when we spend time in the slums and the more isolated locations. That feeling of being a real location kind of falls apart once the characters are on their own in places that look more like set pieces. They needed to stick to the more populated areas because that is where the setting came alive.

The story itself of the Major finding out who she is/was/will be, whatever. Her identity crisis is handled pretty well. It isn’t earth shattering or something we haven’t seen done in sci-fi before but it is a story that works and the writing is good enough that it holds together well. Johansson also gives a decent enough performance as she becomes more who she is rather than who she is programmed to be.

Lastly, the action works in this film. If you want a sci-fi action this one will do the job. There’s some decent fight sequences and some decent gun play/explosions. Certainly this is watchable just from that point of view.


What works less well in this film is the pacing, the support cast, the villain and the final fight sequence. That’s a lot of issues for it to overcome. Admittedly, none of these are deal breakers and you will have seen worse if you have spent any time watching Hollywood science fiction or action movies, but they do interrupt the enjoyment of the viewing and make this good enough but not good.

The pacing is hampered by a desire to throw those bones to the fans. The forced re-enactment of some scenes really does hinder the flow of this story. Admittedly, these aren’t the only pacing issues. The show goes from fast paced action to slow introspections and back and forth as the current scene demands and the end result is going from feeling slightly bored to over stimulated. The person I was viewing with wondered why some scenes existed at all and I pointed out it was a scene from the original and then she just wondered why they bothered to include it. Maybe fans received these moments better but for the casual viewer it really did just mess with the pacing and cohesion of this movie.


Then there’s the support cast with their very hit and miss performances. Conversations go from zero to over the top drama school level anger in seconds and seemingly with little trigger. There’s a few of the support cast that just had me shaking my head as they delivered their lines with as much forced enthusiasm as you usually see in a children’s play. On the other hand, some of the support cast actually did a stellar job with the material they were given and their performances really help hold the reality of the story together.

When it comes to the actual villain of the story, he suffers from an incredibly shallow motivation and almost zero actual plan. When he calls for the spider tank at the end you just know that this guy exists only to be a jerk and he wouldn’t go astray as the villain in an early batman film.

Which leads us on to the final fight sequence against the spider tank. What? Why? We have a thoughtful and interesting science fiction concept about the human consciousness and blending with machines and the best you can do for a final fight sequence is send a tank that does not look like it is obeying the laws of physics to shoot at the main character? Really?

Okay, I actually did enjoy watching this movie. Then again, it was pretty much average Hollywood. Nothing really surprising about it and perfectly watchable with no understanding of the franchise. Would I recommend it? Only if you are pretty much up for anything sci-fi or action and aren’t too picky about the acting.

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Karandi James.


23 thoughts on “Ghost in the Shell 2017 Movie Review

  1. I’m a massive ghost in the shell fan but I just found this film boring – there were some points that I could feel myself getting into but i kept losing interest. It’s not terrible though, like I thought the acting was good and even though people complained about it I just think people are maybe too stuck with the animated ghost in the shell instead of giving the film a chance. It’s worth a watch just to tick it off the list I think maybe I’ll come back to it when the DVD comes out maybe I was tired at the cinema

  2. I haven’t seen it, but my impressions seem to match your review. I don’t think it deserved all the auto-hate it got. Fans could have had a serious discussion about whitewashing while not immediately relegating the movie to the trash heap.

  3. I seen all of them besides this one. By what I seen I don’t like how they change the story of her memory being fake, because in the anime she doesn’t remember of herself being human, so that’s why it’s call “Ghost in the Shell:” for not having your human memories before being turn into an android, also in the anime they decided to become an android and not against their well. That just what I know of the trailers and reviews I seen.
    I also don’t like that it’s rated PG-13 because the anime movie was rated R, that just because I want to see nudity and hear the words and other ways the words “Fuck, Fucking, Fuck Head, and Fucking Asshole” was use in the anime.

  4. love the ghost in the shell series but the live action movie loss what made ghost in the shell amazing in my eyes. it had some good bits but as a ghost in the shell movie i was disappointed with it.

  5. I’ve read both positive and negative reviews of this film but I think this is the first one from someone who’s not head over heels for the original franchise. It’s an interesting perspective you’ve brought to the table. I want to watch the anime and original movie soon but I think I’ll give this version a pass. You make it clear that it’s not much more than the typical Hollywood action film and I don’t think I’m up for that.

    1. Fair enough. I hope you enjoy the anime. My issue with the anime was probably when I watched it. I’d probably enjoy it a lot more now than I did then but to be honest I’ve got enough other things to watch without retrying something I didn’t like way back when.

  6. I absolutely love the series, especially the film adaptation of the original comic, and then the anime series. I’m a huge fan of cyberpunk and stories about AI-ish things; personally, I found those things to be very intellectually engrossing. My biggest issues with the Hollywood re-make was their portrayal of the main character. It strips away a lot of what makes Ghost in the Shell, especially the Major, such an enthralling character/series. The way she contemplates human existence and consciousness, and things relating to that but on grander scale–it’s brilliant. The Hollywood film makes her character seem like a depressed person who’s always contemplating the same thing but in a very negative and almost morose type of way; like she wished she was something that she’s not. That’s not how the Major was and this is an issue (for me personally) because her independent, almost stoic attitude in the anime really sets the foundation for the debate of human vs. machine in regards to emotions, thoughts, feelings, and choices that people make. She’s also a lot more pragmatic in the comic/anime, it’s an inherent part of who she is. Not in the re-make. I don’t know if this makes any sort of sense… But these are all my own opinions. I know people feel differently than me and that’s totally okay.

  7. I am a big fan of Ghost in the Shell. Both the movie and the animated series, and I really enjoyed the film. Sure it wasn’t the best movie ever made, but it was also not as bad as so many reviews made it out to be. As I said in my own review a while back,the movie just was pretty much doomed to fail after the whole white washing incident. It just wasn’t given a fair chance at all, and that is one of the reasons it failed in the end.
    Still, I loved the movie. Scarlett did a very good job in my opinion as the Major and the visual style was seriously cool. Great post! 😊

    1. Yep, a lot of people went in to find things to criticise and came out feeling justified rather than going in hoping to enjoy a movie. It kind of changes how you view it in the end.
      I really did enjoy the visuals of this film though I just wish the story and pacing had been a little better.

  8. I was going to see it around Easter with some friends but, long story short, the cinema screwed up and i still haven’t seen it.

    Honestly, I kind of feel bad that it’s constantly being compared to the original, even though it’s made by different people for a different audience. People seem to be judging it before they even see it kust because “there’s no way Hollywood can do the anime justice”.

    I’ve already heard people saying that the Death Note film will be crap and won’t even give it a chance. Am I expecting it to be anything like the manga? No, that would be stupid. But it will be interesting to see what they will do with it, even though it’s not looking very good right now…Anyway, I digress.

    Nice to finally see a far review that doesn’t whine about white-washing as if it automatically makes the film worse than Birdemic.

    1. As much as I would love Hollywood and every other prodcuer of content to embrace diversity, one film does not make or break an industry and to disliking something based on what it might have been doesn’t really make sense. Kind of have to judge the film on its own merits and while it has its issues there’s certainly worse out there.

  9. I agree that some scenes are forced just to make it look like the scenes from the original GiTS. Though as a big fan of GiTS it was fun seeing those scene re-enacted in Hollywood style. The moment I saw the film I knew, people won’t appreciate all the missing plot points; thus the flop.

    Glad you enjoyed the film, even though you’re not a fan.

  10. I havent seen it yhet but a bunch of friends who have basically shared your exact thoughts. They said it wasnt anything to scream and shout about but it wasnt terrible either. A decent enough sci fi action.
    That being said, they also mentioned its best if you pretend its not based on the anime whilst watching it lol

    1. Yeah, just watching it for what it is rather than trying to compare it is probably the best way to enjoy it. If the write had also just done that rather than trying to cram in references that didn’t fit, it would have been a better movie.

  11. That’s about what I thought of it: a decent sci-fi action movie. I just had higher expectations since I do like GitS a lot, and this wasn’t anywhere near as smart as the original film or SAC. I enjoyed it well enough, but it could have been better. Also, the way they had to hammer in the meaning of the title instead of trusting the audience to figure it out was kind of irritating.

    1. Yeah, some of the dialogue was very heavy and just unnatural to try to get across a point that really only existed because it was an adaptation.

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