Reviewed: Ghost in the Shell, 2017

Japan got the new Ghost in the Shell movie a week later than most countries did. Our side of the world waited, along with China, India, Bangladesh, Estonia, and Lithuania. At least we weren’t the only ones in the queue.

We booked tickets the same day it finally came out in cinemas. Sure, we’re patient, but not that patient.

Over here, some cinemas are showing the film in 4D. That’s the one with water and air effects around your chair. Having watched it in normal, boring 2D, we’re glad we gave the 4D a miss. You saw the fight scene in water from the trailer, right? Can you imagine?

The Japanese dubbed version brought back some of the former voice actors. No wonder the movie’s doing so well here. Over $3 million on an opening weekend isn’t exactly something to diss.

Photos were forbidden, but the shop in the cinema lobby had loads of Ghost in the Shell merch.

The characters you know and love?

If familiar character voices brought people to the cinema, the new story kept their attention. By nature, this version of Ghost in the Shell’s different. It has to be. It’s a Hollywood movie for a global audience – it can’t just drop you in like you know the whole thing already.

And if you’re a GitS fan, this isn’t the story you know anyway.

The ‘Major’ storyline changes

Whether you approved of the casting and plot changes or not, the movie explains it all away. You might like those explanations, or you might wonder where they found such a massive shoehorn. To us, it was… believable, but clunky. An acceptable way around the ‘issue’, but delivered in a fairly blunt way.

It feels like a big ‘We told you so!’ to people who complained about ‘whitewashing’ the Major. It’s disturbingly easy to imagine how smug the screenwriters must’ve felt wrapping that story up.

And in any case, you can’t be mad at the casting when half the characters are shoved to the back. We remember the GitS anime being much more of an ensemble show. In the new film, fans of Paz, Ishikawa and Saitou aren’t gonna be happy with their limited amount of screentime.

Even Togusa’s kinda sidelined, which is really weird. By the time he finally got his second line of the movie, we’d forgotten he was in it. Oops.


Language Barrier: Stand Alone Complex

Don’t worry, not everyone’s European! Kitano ‘Beat’ Takeshi plays Aramaki. That’s right, Takeshi from Takeshi’s Castle… and Kitano from Battle Royale.

There’s a persistent rumour that he’s not keen on foreigners, even though he’s been in several global movies. That’ll explain why he doesn’t do English. Turns out they made Aramaki the only character that speaks Japanese.

Looks like they made him a fair bit older, too.

They didn’t even make one of the other characters bilingual. Unless magically understanding everything their leader says counts. We feared they’d take his English subtitles off the Japanese release completely. (It’s hard-subbed, they didn’t.)

At least the English isn’t all complicated science and psychology. When it comes to explaining ‘ghosts’ and ‘shells’ to first-time viewers, it sounds pretty simple. It has to be – the film’s not even 2 hours long.

The kind of movie that hacks your eyeballs

We felt like the show deserved Hollywood-level visuals, and we’re glad it finally got them. At cinema quality, Ghost in the Shell is breathtaking to watch. Any ‘ah, this is what I came to see’ moments you’ll have will likely be during those drone-style scenery shots.

During massive, sweeping scenes of city skyscrapers, we were leaning forwards to try and catch everything. The level of detail in the graphics is crazy. You’re bound to miss something. Can’t wait for it to come out on DVD/Blu-ray, so we can obsessively rewatch the same bit 20-30 times.

A worm in our ears

The music of Ghost in the Shell’s always been amazing. On our first listen to the opener from Stand Alone Complex, we were hooked. It’s no secret we’ve got a soft spot for Yoko Kanno. Trying to imagine any other OP theme for the show’s impossible:

From the start of the new movie, you can hear the heavy influence. The soundtrack’s impressively faithful to the show’s previous incarnations. It fits perfectly – always has done. Long-time fans will feel like they’re listening to an episode of Stand Alone Complex.

Shame such an awesome OST isn’t actually getting a release

When you’re looking for any Ghost in the Shell soundtrack, don’t get it confused with the ‘Inspired By’ version. The ‘music inspired by the motion picture’ is not in the motion picture.

So, should you go see Ghost in the Shell?

Ah, now that depends.

If you’re the type of anime purist who thinks Rebuild of Evangelion was one rebuild too many, don’t torture yourself. This probably isn’t the Hollywood reboot for you.

If you’re not, then yeah, definitely check it out. We enjoyed it, and not from a newcomer’s perspective. The plot’s not too heavy on the brain, and the visuals will more than keep your eyes occupied.

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