I know perception and experience is everything when coming to a computer to write up one’s thoughts upon a work of cinema. I’ve written about this aspect of cinema interpretation probably more than anyone else I’ve read. I love the subjective nature of it. Shortly after I saw the original anime, GHOST IN THE SHELL by Mamoru Oshii… not only did I create AICN, but I had full paralysis in both my legs from an accident. The idea of a consciousness in a badass tech form… again, quite appealing, but it didn’t just stop with the Major’s situation – it was the complete ambient reality surrounding the character that I fell in love with. As a Westerner, who at that time had yet to visit the Far East, I have always thought of Tokyo as a science fiction city. So that Anime took it up several notches. So much so – that for me, it was toe to toe for detail with BLADE RUNNER and BATMAN (1989) – only, the tech was vastly more cool. Then there was that score… I can watch GHOST IN THE SHELL anime like I can EXCALIBUR or CONAN THE BARBARIAN or STAR WARS… enraptured with nothing else existing in the world – and as simply a theme and vision to get in the right creative mindspace to write. I don’t need to look at the screen, cuz… well, I KNOW EVERYTHING THAT’S THERE.
GHOST IN THE SHELL anime is that kind of movie.
So, tonight I went to a press/promo screening for Rupert “SNOW WHITE & THE HUNTSMAN” Sanders’ GHOST IN THE SHELL. Now, I enjoy that film of Sanders’ – without irony. It’s insane, obviously, but ya gotta love the very bizarre Dwarf action throughout that film. A very different effects solution, that… was something I couldn’t stop looking at in a way that made me… uncomfortable with loving it, but fascinated by it all at once. I’ll revisit that film in a couple years. After Stewart in PERSONAL SHOPPER – I’m curious to maybe revisit and reconsider every role she’s ever done before. She’s that great in PERSONAL SHOPPER.
Anyway – Let’s dive into this westernized adaptation of GHOST IN THE SHELL by Rupert Sanders…
As a work of cinematic science fiction, it’s pretty breath-taking. It isn’t dumbed down so much as simplified, given emotional resonance and ultimately a mystery/revenge plot/resolution – which is all so very Western of a Hollywood studio – and not at all wrong headed. They applied BLADE RUNNER, ROBOCOP and applied those lessons to a work I hold in the highest of esteem… and made, a damn cool movie. I mean, look. If you got some problem with this movie… Respect, but disagree.
Lorne Balfe & Clint Mansell knocked the ever-loving sonics out of the park with this film. That score – all the music – it made me sit up and try to put the audience and surroundings away – cuz man, that rectangle up there – it was beckoning to me. Ignore the two people to my left that were giving comments consistently through the film to each other… in fact, dial them completely the fuck out. And that was simple, thanks to Balfe & Mansell. As much as they paid Scarlett and the VFX team, if this movie catches you – I can not understate the impact of these two with this score. It got me hooked.
Then there’s all that Weta magic, both practical and with their Digital side. Put me on a plane, I wanna go to this place! I mean. Folks… this shit is cool. There’s so much Weta Workshop killer shit – that then does it’s computer cousin, but the world felt real to me. Real in the dreamiest way that unreal shit can pretend to be real. GHOST IN THE SHELL – I was there. There are very few moments of this film that ever feel like something I can visit intellectually, because I know that all the shit that is catching my eye… well, it’s right around the corner, but we can’t quite do all that yet. That I know of. But if you read the tech and science sites – progress is on the march.
One thing you need to know about the film. This isn’t the happiest of tales. Some fucked up shit is going on. And I know, white girl. But trust me – if you go and watch. The fucking cocksuckers that did this to her, making her, essentially a zombie slave cop. There’s a lot going on here that everyone should be going. STOP. Saving consciousness to indenture life – how’s that for a trade off. I mean, as a society – that’s a very real question we should be thinking about. Really, how different is it from this life? IT COULD BE HORRIBLE! It could also be kinda the most transformational thing we as humans with vision could become. This film goes into the origin of Major and
TAKESHI KITANO – Aramaki. FUCK YES! This movie didn’t need a single character other than Takeshi Kitano. Beat “Fucking” Takeshi in a live-action GHOST IN THE SHELL universe. THIS Is amongst the most perfect fucking YES things ever to occur. And if you watch the movie and you think, FUCK HARRY, then folks – goto IMDB – watch all his shit – then tell me. DOESN’T THAT ROCK YOU? This man is one of the coolest most surprising actors you’ll find on planet Earth. He’s kinda done everything – and you’ll never figure him out as an actor. But he’s always 3 seconds of detonation to me. There’s carnage constantly held back in his dialogue scenes. I just wonder, do these people in this room know they’re in the presence of DEATH! That’s how I feel about Takeshi Kitano in this role… OH – and he’s fucking AWESOME!
Then there’s Pilou Asbæk. This man! Look, I’m on board – let’s have 30 GHOST IN THE SHELL movies with crazy ass sci-fi scripts – Force Guillermo Del Toro to direct one… And James Cameron. Not that Rupert did bad, he most certainly did not. And I’d watch this three. Scarlet, Pilou and Takeshi Kitano – and I’ll watch. In particular – So Takeshi Kitano is great, what he brought to his role is an infinity of awesome… he’s like Clint Eastwood to me. Love this man, but Pilou Asbæk? Never heard of him. He’s fantastic as Batou. It’s the character brought to life. And while I’m happy with the action I got, I’m definitely in the mood to watch it again, a few more times, and then a lot more here at home. And then in future movies – Constant him and Major. And let’s go even crazier with the tech we see and the stopping of future horrifying situations that always seem to come with progress.
But as I watch this film, which has puppies. I know, there are people not in high stress living scenarios like these characters – and maybe Ernie Cline’s OASIS is out there somewhere. But those kids could have used MAJOR helping out in that story. She and Batou would’ve taken down IOI. If they were stateside.
We’re getting into some genuinely exciting future vision films. GHOST IN THE SHELL – a lot of our entertainment is beginning to introduce gadgets and concepts – that are very near to reality. The themes of suffering in existence – well, that’s life. What I’ve always loved about the original anime was the snapshot in animation form of a future – that’s rather continually around the corner. This film did it justice. First thing that Father Geek said to me after the screening was, “Well, that’s one I’m gonna need to see a dozen or so more times!”
Dad doesn’t fuck around. He gets right to the point. Me, I get notions and ideas. And well the story of a person, taken against her will, had her brain harvested, wiped clean and reprogrammed as a completely different being. YOU ARE SUPPOSED TO BE OUTRAGED. At no point in this story – should you feel OK with Major’s situation. It isn’t fucking fun for her. She doesn’t… feel right to herself or others. The world makes sense as a job, but she has a brief sad history, so she moves forward. I really enjoy Scarlett’s work, that Weta Workshop silicone suit is really something. It doesn’t move like many costumes you’ve ever seen. I knew going in that it was a silicone suit, cuz I’m a geek and I read everything. Adam Savage did a show with Richard Taylor talking about their work on this film – and a girl, not Scarlett, was in a Major costume – and they talk about the talcum necessary to get in it – and then you know the sweating and the powder – you really have to give it to her cuz full body silicone. That’s gotta feel so damn weird. My fave kickass lady performance of the year is still with Charlize Theron for ATOMIC BLONDE. Full humanity is always a bit better than the detached humanity character. At least for me. It’s perfect for this role. This is someone discovering themselves while having to kick a lot of ass. The Spider Tank is pretty great. I love we get this stuff. I mean, finally.
So there ya have it. I love the original. Love it’s score, it’s look, it’s structure and story. And, I think I can begin to have an interesting friendship with this new film. With the chance to say, maybe it’s… dare I say it… no, I’m not there yet. THOUGH I REALLY WANT TO BE, it’s gonna take a few viewings till my eyes stop trying to see it all – and anticipate and catch even more. There’s a part of me, with this kind of film, where… the ticket to admission is like a departing voyage to a world I can not yet visit, but gosh it’d be cool. I’d be happier to see all violence in utter safety. I think with all this tech, the friendly fire factor has to go down a bit. I hope. But like… that robot Geisha dinner at the start. I wanna go there. The ability to share not just a recording of your child proudly singing a song, but the feeling you have of complete love and happiness that goes along with it. That’s a form of drug in this world. So just imagine. Maybe in the future – if you go to a movie and you really hated it – but that’s a really dissatisfying feeling. You look up your favorite critic that always seems to love things that you just get frustrated with. Well perhaps, for a fee, you could experience the film through another’s eyes and mind and chemical reactions inside of you. Apply this to everything. I love these ideas and notions.
But once you marry all of it – and you give people a different reality or way of perception, or that someone can hack you – and make you have additional or found memories. Make you kill. The world of GHOST IN THE SHELL has all these things going on in it. Nobody looks at cell phones. But do they ever really see the world at all?
THAT’s what I love about watching a GHOST IN THE SHELL story – and this version succeeded at giving me a lot to chew on. This is just viewing one.
Keep it cool,