As Ghost In the Shell ends a grin forms over my face as I hear the iconic music from the anime in the end credits. I was almost disappointed that I did not get to hear that song. Now before you jump down my throat I have so many things to talk about but first I would like to review this new box office thriller that everyone is talking about “Ghost In The Shell” This film is a reboot of the 1989 Japanese manga created by Masamune Shirow and anime film directed by Mamoru Oshii which was released in 1995. This manga and anime are both iconic and was once people’s first glimpse into the world of anime, I know for me I used to watch Toonami late night growing up and would catch Ghost In The Shell, Cowboy Bebop, Gundam and Tenchi Muyo. So it is only right that so many people would want the reboot to be represented in the best way possible. Ghost In the Shell is almost synonymous when anyone from nerds, to people who have only briefly scratched the surface of anime even talk about Manga’s or classic anime production, so what is the problem that everyone is having with this reboot. Check out the trailer below
Now to catch everyone up to speed, over the last year and some change and even all the way up to the premiere date of this movie on March 31st, their has been so much talk about Scarlett Johansson and the whitewashing of this film. Many fans and critics believe that the main character would’ve at least been played by an Asian actress, and that Hollywood is still not changing there minds about diversity and actually bringing forth new faces to the big screen. We have seen movies like Gods of Egypt which was a total flop and even I for one was happy it flopped, but examples like that show Blatant misrepresentations of a place like Egypt that’s in Africa for most people who did not know that. But Ghost In The Shell has driven a wedge between many people between what’s right and what’s wrong. I want to show my opinion on what I thought of the movie, but also the controversy behind not having Asian actors on the big screen.
Before I dive into the 2017 reboot of Ghost In The Shell let me talk about the 1995 anime for a few. Someone asked me the other week if I actually watched the anime and I said I barely remember it, because I honestly only remember watching the anime when I was a kid. So I told myself that I would watch it before going to see the movie on Friday, but plans changed and I actually ended up watching the movie on Thursday and also going to see the new movie that same night. While watching the anime I noticed a few things that it was not how I remembered and that at times I sort of lost interest, even though I still very much loved the anime and understood what was going on. I think my love for the film and the legacy of it overshadowed what I really remembered none the less it truly is a classic anime. For those that don’t know the concept of Ghost In the shell it is that a young woman by the name of Motoko Kusanagi was injured in a terrible car accident and was saved by being put into a cyber body know as a shell. The Concept of the name Ghost comes from the idea of the human brain is still functional and ask as the main function leaving the Ghost not really aware that it is a cyborg. This takes place in a kind of cyberpunk futuristic Japan in the early stages. I still very much loved the anime do not get me wrong that is only my opinion.
Now onto the Live Action Reboot:
To be completely honest I was very excited to see this movie, from the beginning, even though I myself wish Scarlett Johansson would’ve been replaced by a Japanese Actress. After constantly seeing the anime version and seeing clips of Scarlett I can see why they picked her for this movie, especially after a movie like Lucy which everyone says is horrible, but in my opinion it was actually a really good film, the ending of that film just is the kicker that made you want more out of it. Now this movie starts off with kind of like a montage of how Major Mira was created and why this company by the name of Hanka robotics wanted to keep her alive and show the rest of the world how a fully functioning Cyborg could be an amazing asset in the Section 9 police division. This film is beautiful made like the visuals of the futuristic Japan looked just amazing and it felt like this is exactly how the future should look soon. From the way the buildings looked to how the holograms were interactive it was just beautiful.
Everyone has compared this cyberpunk feel to The Fifth Element and The Blade Runner two of my favorite movies of all time set in the future, but while watching this I did not get that feeling. I feel Fifth Element is the start of the Future where everything is colorful and bright, while Ghost In The Shell is kind of the middle, and Blade Runner is kind of what the future would look like, if everyone truly started to be corrupt and trying to destroy the very thing that created the future. So I feel each one these films would be a different stage of where the world is at.
While watching this film we are introduced to a number of robotic Geisha’s who have taken over this evening dinner of corporate heads discussing life and business until they are interrupted and slightly taken hostage of the information they are holding. we see the iconic scene of when Major is where an all white outfit and falls from the top of the building into this dangerous. before going to see this movie someone said this movie was boring and the action wasn’t that impressive, I was thoroughly impressed with the action from beginning to end, the directors stitched together a lot of the iconic and classic scenes from the anime and made it look very good in my opinion. Of course the movie isn’t going to be exactly like the anime, but with that being said I actually liked that it wasn’t just like the 1995 classic. I wasn’t that impressed with Scarlett’s acting, but her fight scenes were really good, at times I thought to myself why is she walking like that, but then I remembered she’s playing a cyborg, but she pretty much did a good job with this role having the expressionless look on her face and hitting the marks.
Moving forward Major is trying to find out who is the cause of all these attacks in the city why the Geisha’s went AWOL and who is deliberately using other cyborgs. We come to find out it is Kuze played by Michael Pitt who we can also call him the puppet master in a way. Kuze was using people to get to Major, but also trying to constantly show her that Hanka robotics is not to be trusted, but Section 9 only felt Kuze was the enemy because of how many explosions and evil tactics he was using to bring about this action of awareness. Fans even had issues with Michael Pitt as Kuze, but even in the anime the puppet master used a cybertronic woman with blonde hair, but I understand the issue because of the Japanese names and this being in Japan that we should’ve seen more Asian actors. I have always been a fan of Michael Pitt since he was in Boardwalk Empire and I thought he did a great job as Kuze. Especially the scene when he has Major trapped in the depths of this underground night club, and tells her the evils of Hanka and that she was not the first Shell to be created. This puts a whole spin on Major’s thinking and she starts to question even Dr. Quelet who has shown her nothing, but compassion.
Before I move on I have to talk about one of my favorite characters in this movie Chief Aramaki played by none other than the great Takeshi Kitano. He is honestly one of my favorite Japanese actors and actors in general. Reading prior reviews before going to see this movie many people failed to talk about his performance and how amazing he was. To me he was the best this man never spoke any English in the entire movie which I thought was excellent in terms of not watering down his character. Even his on screen presence was great because everyone knew that once he walked in the room they were either in trouble or he had something important to say. In my opinion one of the best and most thrilling scenes of this movie is when Aramaki and the rest of the Section 9 team starts to believe major and that Hanka Robotics is not to be trusted. Aramaki is getting ready to drive off in his car when he is ambushed by enforcers sent by Cutter the CEO of Hanka, they blast Aramaki’s car leaving the audience wondering did he survive. When we see Aramkai jump out the car and shoots each man and stands over them unloading his shells saying the best quote of the movie “Don’t send a rabbit to kill a fox”
Before going to see this film I didn’t think I would see any people of color and that would be completely whitewashed and maybe I would hate it. I actually a few familiar faces with the likes of Chin Han playing Togusa, Yutaka Izumihara as Saito, and of course Aramaki. I also saw a new face that I was not familiar with even though he had a few lines Lasarus Ratuere as Ishikawa. I really loved the supporting cast of this movie and thought they held the movie together, especially Pilou Asbaek as Batou, he really did a great job and even though people wanted him to be played by an Asian actor I think they picked the right person to play Batou he gave off the same energy as the anime.
Disappearing Act of Asian Faces: Now the whole time throughout this movie all I could think about was what would this look like if Major was played by an Asian actress and how much better would it have done in the box office or would be even go see how much they were screaming for diversity. Yes I think critical while watching movies, but I also try my best to enjoy films since I love going to the movie theater and also just watching movies at home. Many people were so upset with this film and Scarlett Johansson because of not just her taking on this role, but also what she said that she believed didn’t have an Identity and that she was “identity less” hearing that drove people over edge saying that Scarlett was denying the true essence of the character. Even though I enjoyed this film I would’ve honestly loved to see an Asian face on the big screen. Ultimately now a days every time I hear people screaming for diversity in films I can only think about the interview Will Smith had about the Oscars. Will Smith said the reason why people are going crazy for diversity is because people are tired of seeing the same thing “so give them diversity, that’s what the people want”.
We have to ask why is Hollywood so afraid to put Asian actors in front of the big screen and give them leading roles. A number of Asian actresses could’ve played Major and probably better with the likes of Rinko Kikuchi from Pacific Rim who I for one had her for sure playing the role, but also Tao Okamato, Kiki Sukezane who we just recently saw in the Heroes Reboot, Karen Fukuhara who played Katana in Suicide Squad, Chiaki Kuriyama who we all know and love as Gogo from Kill Bill and Kimiko Glenn. There was also a lot of controversy recently with the new Marvel Netflix show iron Fist, which a lot of people wished for an Asian lead as Danny Rand. I am on the fence sometimes for the roles people wish Asian actors to play because I love Asian culture and films and I hate when people only see them playing martial artist, or playing the villain, a Geisha or something that we all see or that we believe to be apart of Japanese and Chinese culture. With all the women I have just named they did an amazing job in all of the movies and shows they were casted in so what is the problem Hollywood? whats the problem Directors? Is it that they would be too oriental?, some might not speak enough English? or would they not reach the target audience you are looking for? Even if this analysis I wanted to do some more research and found out that the people Japan were not mad about Scarlett getting the lead and that they already know they won’t be represented well in Foreign films. Which is sad, but I’ve always felt the Asian Film scene was always on it’s on path between the action and even drama movies they produce.
So why is everyone in America screaming for diversity when Japan says Scarlett was perfect? I believe being in America we see the constitution we all of this everyone is equal slogans, but we have yet to see that in films. When movies and tv shows are one of the biggest outlets for many people to get together and be able to share something. Little by little we are seeing more Asian faces with the likes of shows like Fresh of the boat, and Ming Na on Agents of Shield and Ken Jeong with his show “Dr.Ken”, but that is still not enough for the years of whitewashing we have seen in Hollywood. Something needs to change when will that happen?
Final Thoughts: I thoroughly enjoyed this movie, there could have been some better scenes and just better pacing, but how the directors stitched together the movie I can honestly say I liked it. I do wish there was an Asian lead and more Asian actors. Ghost In The Shell has not been doing well in the box office, but I think the problem is the way the movie was presented to everyone, even if you aren’t big into anime many people know the name Ghost in The Shell and resonates that with what we saw in the anime. I also feel a lot of people are tired of seeing Scarlett kind of play the same roles where she’s kicking someone’s ass and it just seems like she’s still black widow in a way. I went to see this movie for the action, but to also see how well it would be put together and what would be different from the anime to live action. I will not spoil the ending of this movie, but many people felt the ending was completely whitewashed, but in my opinion it wasn’t it was merely Major putting to rest about who she was. The ending wasn’t about reclaiming her Japanese heritage or calling a woman mom. It was about finding out the truth and seeing that Hanka Robotics lied about everything. I can see why people are upset over the big reveal because Asian actors could have been placed in those scenes, and would’ve come off more authentic than kind of like oh they are trying to erase the whole notion of this actually being in Japan. I think some fail to see that this is a futuristic cyber punk Japan with the idea of mixed races but that’s just me. I say if you want to go see it, go see it, if you don’t then don’t. March gave us a lot of movies, and hopefully April will do the same.
Riceball Rating: 7.5 out of 10