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Published: Mon, April 10, 2017
Entertainment | By Johnnie Parsons

'Ghost In The Shell' Has To Face Whitewashing Criticism At Box Office

'Ghost In The Shell' Has To Face Whitewashing Criticism At Box Office

The issue of consent is more timely, as Major has to affirmatively accept various risks and procedures (like all of those "I agree" boxes you have to check every time you update your software), but the movie is too busy showing us zippy Pokemon Go-style virtual ads all over the city to spend any thought on it, or anything else, for that matter.

Scarlett Johansson stars in this moody, visually dazzling adaptation of Japanese director Mamoru Oshii's 1995 anime film, which became a cult classic for its revolutionary mash-up of classical animation and computer generated effects.

Screenwriters Jamie Moss and William Wheeler do provide crisper dialogue and a more polished narrative than the original film, but it's a tale still rooted in overwrought tropes and stale clichés.

The corporation here is Hanka Industries, which exists in a far-flung future where humans regularly enhance themselves with cybernetics and where human souls (or ghosts) can be put into synthetic bodies (or shells).

Therefore it's a tough act to ask of our class of 2017 Ghost in the Shell to be original or ground-breaking. The production design is marvelous, and the more time I spent in this urban kaleidoscope of giant dancing holograms and neon billboards, the happier I was.

In the end, if you absolutely must cast a white actress in the lead role that might have gone to an ethnic Asian and include geisha even as robots to evoke a sense of modern Japan, maybe you need to reflect more on what you're really trying to accomplish. Gone too is the element I always found so striking about Oshii's film: its bracing willingness to drop us into the middle of its very odd world and to let us figure things out for ourselves. Some guessed this was because of persistent complaints about the main character in the live-action version of the popular Japanese manga being played by Marvel's Black Widow, Scarlett Johansson, who is not East Asian.

But the story, beneath all the science-fiction and action-movie trappings, is fairly simple.

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Fans of the comic may have a different experience, and simply appreciate Shirow's work visualized on the big screen.

The Major is the first of her kind, a blend of human and AI that's better than human, better than AI.

But that brings me to my negatives. She will stop at nothing to recover her past, find out who did this to her and stop them before they do it to others. However, in the movie's defense, most of the characters are robots, which technically can be any race their makers want them to be.

There is also a significant - and eye-rolling - revision of The Major's origin story, presumably to justify why she now looks Caucasian in the remake. It's entertaining on that level but it doesn't ask the questions about humanity and existence that the original anime does so powerfully. Pilou Asbæk (who also starred with Johansson in "Lucy") plays Batou, her sidekick, who is outfitted with Brian Bosworth's 1988 haircut and looks like a character from the video game "Bad Dudes". She gets backup in her battles from gruff comrade Batou (Pilou Asbaek) and, during her down time, draws emotional support from Dr. Ouelet (Juliette Binoche), the physician who supervised her creation.

Tuning out is probably the best option, given the story, which is an uninspired mishmash of stuff you've seen in a bunch of other sci-fi movies before this one. They have layers with complex questions of good versus evil. Sanders' vision is often arresting, but his movie contains too many concessions to modern action-movie conventions - the martial arts, the gun fights.

But at least it's got that going for it.

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