I’d like to start this by making a simple statement of fact: there has never been a good remake of a cult classic film. In fact, every single one has been pretty awful. The 2014 Robocop remake was perhaps the only one that isn’t completely unbearable, but that is an exception against the bizarre choice to remake The Italian Job in 2003, the horror show that was 2012’s Total Recall, or the film equivalent of excrement, 2012’s Red Dawn (wow, 2012 was a truly horrific year for mankind).
None of those films had to face the levels of scrutiny Ghost in the Shell, a remake of the 1995 classic anime, has in recent months. One of the main things I think it’s important to talk about first, is that since the announcement of Scarlett Johansson in the lead role as the Major, the film has faced criticism for “whitewashing” by casting a white actress instead of an Asian one. What is quite astounding, however, is that the film’s plot actively draws attention to it, in a weirdly convoluted and horrendously poorly handled way. How those plot points ever got to the stage where they were in active development and being filmed without anyone stopping and thinking about how terribly stupid they were is truly, truly beyond me.
Incidentally, the story is comfortably the worst part of Ghost in the Shell. Whereas the anime had one of the most compelling, exciting stories in animated film, the story here has been diluted to the point where it’s utterly forgettable, to the point that after finishing watching it I could barely remember half of the plot. Gone is the original film’s examination of the human condition and identity in a world with androids, artificial intelligence and cyborgs, as the film lets these issues almost fade into the background, as if they are of no consequence. The film also has little to no character development, the characters feeling like side shows to meaningless action sequences.
The film does have some redeeming features, however. It is, undeniably, absolutely beautiful. The films sequences, backdrops and skylines are stunning to look at, and are almost good looking enough to distract you from how dull the film is. In addition, Scarlett Johansson proves that she is a great actress, as she does manage to put in a good, believable, enjoyable performance despite the controversy surrounding her casting, an almost impossible task given how horrendous the script was.
However, despite these positives, Ghost in the Shell is ultimately a huge, huge disappointment. It can probably be summed up in the old adage – all style, but no substance.
Image credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/deepskyobject/