A Ghost In The Shell? Maybe It’s Human After All

I had two fears for this movie walking into the cinema. The first, that it would deviate so far from the original that it would be unrecognizable, and the second that it would be nothing more than a copy, a pale imitation. I was still doubtful, but pleasantly surprised to find that neither were true.

After watching the original over 15 years ago, and numerous times since then, it’s hard not to expect the remake to be something it isn’t, but as with any re-imagining you have to take it for what it is. And when Hollywood’s involved and big budgets are on the line, you bet it’s going to be something very different.

The original shaped my expectations of what a film should be. It was dark, gritty, and menacing. As with all my favorite thrillers, it showed a future just on the horizon. An accurate portrayal of humanity, how every step forward brought along with it new ways in which everything could go horribly wrong.

But at the center of it all, the characters were still human, and as such, their motivations. I knew that over and above the technical wizardry, if they missed this part of the original, they would have missed the mark completely.

The live action has Hollywood all over it. The future it presents isn’t one slightly on the horizon, but much more advanced. In typical Hollywood fashion, the lights are brighter, sounds louder. Technologically, whatever you can imagine is possible.

I found it difficult to get into at first. The lines and alliances aren’t blurred, and there’s very little sense of moral ambiguity. The very way in which they treat others immediately divulges friend from foe. I found it empty, lacking in mystery.

But it changed. Just when I’d given up hope that this was nothing but Fast and Furious meets Total Recall, the film made a human connection. It was a brief, but critical moment where the technology and humanity of the film meet. Ultimately this is a part where the remake succeeds, it manages to connect those two, key parts.

Visually, there are a few scenes that are quite clearly sourced from the original material, and they vary between direct copy and a spiritual homage. It’s great material, and tastefully redone, you can’t fault the writers and directors for revisiting it. Ridiculous new technology aside, its a visual spectacle.

The same is true of the storyline, as you’d expect some plot elements are reused, and others completely new. It never feels stale, or like they’re drawing far too much from the original. It is in itself a new story, without being completely different, weaving in and out of the old and new.

Familiar Hollywood tropes abound, as does overly dramatic dialogue. “She’s a weapon”, “she’s a contract”, in particular made me cringe, but thankfully it doesn’t linger on these too long. Even though you can see where it’s going at times, the story moves along at a steady pace, but with a few surprises thrown in for good measure.

I doubt all fans of the original will like it, and the same could easily be said for newcomers alike. Don’t watch it expecting to find the original, and chances are you won’t be disappointed. It’s hard to say whether it will have the same impact the original did, I don’t think so. But now we have them both, so whether or not you’ve watched the original, this is a film you should watch.

It doesn’t succeed on all counts, but for those that it does, it’s worth watching. So if you go in with the view that you’re watching a Hollywood action film sourced from some solid material, you may even enjoy it, just like I did.