“They did not save your life… They stole it.”
I was looking forward to this movie from the very first trailer. I remember the teaser faded out and I just sat there and cheered. Here was a film which looked like it was made for me and my tastes; the visuals alone were stunning, and if it ended up anything like the original it was going to be insanely good. Even though at the time I’d only seen the 1995 version once (now twice, see my previous review!), I immediately spotted parallels along with some added bits which looked just as cool if not cooler.
The storyline is rather similar to that of the anime, which is a bold move by the producers as it poses the risk, if done wrong, of putting out a film that is simply a visual update, nothing more. But I believe that sticking more to the source material really paid off, as the other end of the scale is completely butchering an original that frankly didn’t need to be totally altered. Furthermore, there are LOADS of added plot points which really flesh out the narrative and paint a bigger picture than the 1995 version did. On top of the Puppet Master arc (though this is only vaguely addressed in this version, it’s essentially the same, a rose by any other name and all that), the Major’s origins are explored, a subject which was off-puttingly vague in the original. On top of that, nearly all of the pointless Phantom Menace-esque trade negotiations and diplomacy has been scrubbed, which merits a big thumbs-up in my book. The developers released a ‘First 5 Minutes of Ghost in the Shell’ clip on YouTube about a week before the film came out, and I had to use every ounce of willpower I had not to click on it. I failed, but only allowed myself a sneaky watch of the first ten seconds, as I didn’t want any more spoiled than that. The tone, soundtrack and visuals in those few fleeting moments alone immediately struck a chord with me, and this feeling was maintained throughout the duration of the movie. It looks and sounds stunning. It’s as simple as that. One of my absolute favourite aspects of the film on the whole was the sheer number of nods to the originals. Mashing up shots, characters and themes across the Ghost in the Shell animes, not just the original, this 2017 version is really a massive homage to the source material. Plus, I nerdgasmed so hard at the fact they saved the Major’s ‘hand over the face while turning invisible’ scene to use as the final shot.
To be Improved:
This section is way longer than the one above, but that’s just because I have a lot to discuss about my criticisms, as opposed to a high number of said criticisms. Earlier I hailed the film’s ability to move away from the drivelling exposition of the original, and also the value of delving further into where the main character comes from. This was an aspect heavily criticised before the film’s release for Hollywoodising the story, but we are supposed to be rooting for her, after all, so in my opinion it adds a nice bit of background and some solid foundations for cheering her on. However, not all of these complaints are unfounded; perhaps a little too much has been added to this remake in a misguided attempt to improve upon too many aspects, and at points it starts to get a bit fluffy around the edges. Case in point: a five minute homosexual romantic subplot that is underdeveloped and frankly meaningless for the overarching story apart from a bit of symbolism about the Major’s state of being is nothing more than a distraction which, to be perfectly honest, could have been cut out without making a difference. Other than that, my only other issue is that I think there were aspects they included from the originals which were majorly (no pun intended) out of place when they didn’t need to be. Changing the Major’s name from Motoko Kusanagi to Mira Killian in order to set the stage for a lacklustre reveal at the end of the movie, for instance, is simply worthless. Furthermore, some of the features from the source material was a little too mixed up when, as I just said, there is honestly just no value in the changes. For instance, Aramaki, the boss of Section 9, now wields the revolver instead of Togusa. And perhaps my biggest complaint is that for no reason at all Batou saving the Major from the spidertank at the end is all muddled. It’s not the Major getting her head crushed by the spidertank but instead her robotic brother (who is never referred to as the puppet master), and it’s the Major who saves him and then Batou arrives afterwards and AGH! What I’m trying to say is some of the nods to the original were reworked a little too hard when the foundations were already solid, but this does not detract from the film as a whole. If anything it means that this version is a reimagining rather than a remake, which is perfectly fine with me, and I’d love to give it another watch knowing that fact as I think my hopes for a shot-for-shot remake clouded my judgement.
This is a remake (or rather, a reimagining) which truly lives up to expectations and fulfils its purpose. As in: It expands on the original, improving on any negative factors and adding new and innovative positives on top of them to create a layered piece with even more style and polish than the first. There are some gorgeous shots, some perfect mirror images of original scenes from the 1995 version, camera angles and all, and some truly astonishing sound design and visuals throughout. Some reviews I’ve read have said that the storyline is completely lacking, but for me an admittedly dumbed-down plot just makes this one massive tribute to an original which was, if we’re all being honest, all the way at the other end of the scale where some of it is so confusing that no one knows what’s actually going on. I still adore the original; if you’ve seen my review of it, you’ll know how much I fell in love with the spidertank scene, and in the 2017 remake the poignancy is missing. But this new version is a different beast entirely, and (he says, as he prepares to be burnt at the stake) it’s even better than its predecessor.