“Hey you! Yes, you. You look like you’re a fan of Manga masterpiece Ghost in The shell, right? Thought so. You also look like you quite enjoyed that film where Matt Damon was an amnesiac who hit people till they gave him his memories back, right? So how would you like to watch that movie again, but it sort of looks like Ghost in The Shell? Ow, why are you kicking me? Please come back! There are cool robots!” Such is the message of the latest trailer from this year’s remake of Ghost In The Shell, a film that boasts astonishing visuals coupled with an equally astonishing lack of narrative ambition. Let’s take a look.
So we start with Scarlett Johannson as The Major using her invisibility powers to punch a ne’er do well in a big puddle, like a cross between Mike Tyson and The Predator. After that, it’s basically a montage of shots of the New Port City Skyline (which, we begrudgingly admit, looks amazing) alongside Scarlett Johannson punching and shooting things while corporate types deliver ominous lines about her like: “We cannot control her.”
Michael Pitt makes another appearance as villain Kuze, whose house could really do with some lights and cheerful rugs to offset the “dangling cable” aesthetic. He tells the Major: “What a beauty you are, they have improved us so much, since they made me,” thereby implying both that he was one of the early prototypes of the programme that created her, and that the screenwriter wanted to knock off early that day.
Pretty soon the major has a new accomplice in the form of Batou, played by Pilou Asbæk. “I don’t know who to trust,” she tells him. “Do you trust me?” he replies. “Yes I do,” She says. At least she wasn’t confused for long.
Also, there are loads of dead bodies in plastic sheeting. “Where do the bodies come from?” asks the Major. With an evil corporation creating advanced posthumans, you don’t need to be a cybernetically-enhanced detective to figure that one out.
The Ghost In The Shell world is a pretty unique one and It’s a real shame that, from what we’ve seen so far, the filmmakers seem to be intent on shaving off those rough edges to make it more marketable to a western audience. The trailers illustrate a film that borrows the cyberpunk aesthetics but shoehorns a generic plotline into the piece, seemingly ignoring the storytelling possibilities of the universe.
In the original iterations of Ghost in The Shell, we are presented with a world in which cybernetic enhancements are an everyday, accepted part of life. While the Major’s go further than normal they aren’t unheard of and she certainly isn’t “the first”. Society goes on as before; inequalities exist, crime happens, but the whole world isn’t shot through with a cynical distrust of technology. Because enhancements are accepted, the protagonists aren’t burdened with fighting against the premise of the world, meaning that the plot is free to explore the implications of a society that outsources its mortality to machines. From what we’ve seen so far, we expect this reboot to shy away from those weighty questions, falling back on tried and tested tropes and generic plotlines.
With the success of films like Ex Machina and shows like Westworld, the viewing public have proved that they are ready for blockbuster SF that tackles the ever-more-hazy line between man and machine in clever and insightful ways, but that doesn’t look like what we’ll be getting when Ghost in The Shell opens on March 31.