Hu­man brain, cy­borg body... live ac­tion, based on Manga. The di­chotomies of ‘Ghost’ look won­der­ful on UHD Blu-ray.

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‘Ghost in the Shell’: a hu­man soul in a cy­borg shell — this can’t end well.

Ghost in the Shell is a live ac­tion re-imag­in­ing of the 1980s Ja­panese Manga. There are a num­ber of sto­ries in the Manga. One ver­sion hit the big screen as Ja­panese anime in 1995. An­other story ap­peared as In­no­cence: Ghost in the Shell nine years later, and the orig­i­nal ver­sion was re­vised with im­proved graph­ics in 2008.

The cen­tral char­ac­ter is a life­like cy­borg with a hu­man brain. In this ver­sion, the ori­gins are sketched in the open­ing minute or two. The brain was from a woman, ap­par­ently in­jured be­yond sav­ing. She awakes dis­ori­en­tated. Then we jump for­ward a year and she — Scar­lett Jo­hans­son — is now the lead agent of Sec­tion 9, fight­ing ter­ror­ism. In this case, the ter­ror­ism is be­ing con­ducted by some­one called the Pup­pet Master in the orig­i­nal film, and Kuze in this one. He con­trols cy­borgs and peo­ple through some kind of mind virus.

Jo­hans­son isn’t the only one with a hu­man/ ma­chine meld. Just about ev­ery­one in this movie has some kind of en­hance­ment. The main tech has a sec­tion of her face around her eyes which just pushes out and swings up when she needs to in­ter­face her mind to her mi­cro­scope. Jo­hans­son’s main side­kick, Pilou As­bæk, who looks as­ton­ish­ingly like his char­ac­ter in the anime, ac­quires ar­ti­fi­cial vi­sion in the course of the movie.

Many of the bad guys in the movies ap­pear to have cho­sen their en­hance­ments for no dis­cernible ben­e­fit other than achiev­ing a par­tic­u­lar grotesque ap­pear­ance. Per­haps those me­tal fit­tings around their lower faces help them to chew food more ef­fec­tively.

Like her anime equiv­a­lent, Jo­hans­son likes to shed her clothes for one ac­tion scene near the start. This scene is pat­terned on the orig­i­nal, ex­cept that our ac­tress’ body ap­pears to made of seg­mented plas­tic. Un­like her face, which looks (and of course is) real, un­til a sec­tion is re­moved at one point by the en­emy.

In­evitably a 2017 Ghost in the Shell with a white star was go­ing to gen­er­ate some con­tro­versy, with al­le­ga­tions of ‘white wash­ing’ — the use of a white ac­tor to play a per­son of an­other race. Ap­par­ently the Ja­panese orig­i­na­tors of the ma­te­rial, and the Ja­panese peo­ple them­selves (the movie was re­leased there a cou­ple of weeks be­fore mak­ing its way to the United States) had no prob­lems with this. Some noted that the char­ac­ter is a ma­chine.

I won­der how many of those com­plain­ing were fa­mil­iar with the anime ver­sions. As with many anime pre­sen­ta­tions, many of the char­ac­ters are not sketched with strong racial char­ac­ter­is­tics. The Mo­toko Ku­sanagi char­ac­ter — the anime ver­sion of Jo­hans­son’s char­ac­ter — ac­tu­ally has blue eyes and a very pale com­plex­ion. It’s as

though the char­ac­ter de­sign­ers aimed at some kind of mid-Pa­cific amal­gam to ap­peal to a wider au­di­ence.

Jo­hans­son her­self also looks vaguely midPa­cific in this movie. And she’s clearly one of the best things about it.

Also bril­liant is the vis­ual re­al­i­sa­tion of this world, with holo­graphic bill­boards and lo­gos ev­ery­where across the city. It’s at once rich and chaot­i­cally seedy. There are mo­ments of first-class act­ing in scenes which are rather mov­ing, such as Jo­hans­son meet­ing the older woman as she’s prob­ing her ori­gins, or her in­ter­ac­tions with the Pup­pet Master, played by Michael Pitt, who has quite a his­tory of play­ing tor­tured char­ac­ters.

But the movie as a whole seems a lit­tle too much by the num­bers. What is the magic that makes a movie re­ally work, com­pared to one that doesn’t? No one re­ally knows. If they did, most movies would be great. But as eye candy, es­pe­cially on Ul­tra HD Blu-ray, this is glo­ri­ous. The amount of CGI work that has gone into cre­at­ing the en­vi­ron­ment in which this movie takes place is breath­tak­ing.

Be warned, you’re go­ing to want a dis­play that han­dle blacks well, and is good at dis­crim­i­nat­ing be­tween dark tones, for this is rich and vis­ually dark, al­most with­out a break.

As good as the pic­ture is, so is the sound. On both Blu-ray and Ul­tra HD Blu-ray it’s pre­sented in Dolby At­mos, and the sound engi­neers clearly had fun steer­ing sound ev­ery which way. The pack­age of lan­guages is the same on both discs, which is un­usual; most UHD/Blu-ray pack­ages have the lat­ter more lo­calised, the for­mer with stacks of lan­guages. I’ve as­sumed that they’ve only wanted to press the one UHD for in­ter­na­tional dis­tri­bu­tion. Per­haps that is the Para­mount way. (Yes, the distrib­u­tor Uni­ver­sal Sony also dis­trib­utes Para­mount in Aus­tralia these days.).

Bit-rate (Mbps) of ‘Ghost in the Shell’ main fea­ture on the Blu-ray disc.

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