Thriller a feast for the eyes

Southern Telegraph - - Telegraph Lifestyle - Sue Yeap

Ghost in the Shell Rated: M Star­ring: Scar­lett Jo­hans­son, Michael Win­cott, Michael Pitt

There has been no es­cap­ing the “white­wash” out­cry about Scar­lett Jo­hans­son’s cast­ing in this big-bud­get sci-fi thriller based on Masamune Shi­row’s late-80s clas­sic manga se­ries of the same name.

Would there have been as much fuss if her char­ac­ter, Ma­jor Mira Kil­lian, had a blonde wig in­stead of a black one that gives her the vague ap­pear­ance of be­ing, or try­ing to be, of Asian ori­gin?

Mamoru Oshii, di­rec­tor of the 1995 anime Ghost film, said he had no is­sue with Jo­hans­son play­ing the part be­cause Ma­jor’s char­ac­ter is a cy­borg with no fixed form or race.

But oth­ers have at­tacked the film for fail­ing to ad­dress ques­tions about race and cul­tural iden­tity.

Since the film’s re­lease, two schools of opin­ion have emerged, claim­ing this an un­wor­thy movie — all ghost, no shell — or that it is a vis­ual spec­tac­u­lar.

Con­tro­versy aside, Ghost in the Shell is a daz­zling feast for the eyes, with the 3-D ef­fects in sev­eral water scenes, and one where Ma­jor smashes through a pane of glass, mak­ing stun­ning use of the medium.

It is set in an un­named city in the fu­ture that could be in Japan, or one of its film­ing lo­ca­tions, Hong Kong (the bulk of film­ing took place in and around Welling­ton, New Zealand, home of ef­fects spe­cial­ists Weta Work­shop).

Ghost in the Shell could so eas­ily have de­scended into a show­case of style over sub­stance.

For­tu­nately, it has a solid story. Ma­jor is the first suc­cess­ful mesh­ing of a hu­man brain and syn­thetic body by Hanka Robotics, and is now a prized weapon for fight­ing ter­ror­ists.

Ma­jor was told by Hanka’s Dr Ouelet she was res­cued from a refugee boat and her brain was all that could be saved. But as the film un­folds, she be­gins to sus­pect this is not the truth.

With its ex­plo­ration of ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence, the value of hu­man life, data pri­vacy and the rights of the cy­ber-en­hanced, Ghost in the Shell should ap­peal to any­one who loved Ex Machina or hit se­ries West­world.

Scar­lett Jo­hans­son in the film.

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