Showcase Cinema de Lux Cinematic Experience Review: Ghost in the Shell (Double Feature)

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A great way to enjoy these two films that both carry deep meanings and have interesting, well-executed ideas

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Showcase Cinema de Lux Southampton screened a double feature of 1995’s anime Ghost in the Shell and the 2017 live action film of the same name this week. These two movies, both following the same characters, have a great concept and whilst bringing forward some very interesting ideas, are not always the best-executed films.

Ghost in the Shell (1995)

Mamoru Oshii’s original 1995 anime is set in the year 2029, a time where technology and humanity have begun to merge leading to the human soul becoming known as a “ghost” that can be transferred into different cybernetic bodies. The Major, Motoko Kusanagi (Atsuko Tanaka) is a cyborg who is part of a police force called Section 9. The force begins to investigate a fugitive known as “The Puppet Master” (Iemasa Kayumi) who is taking control of people’s bodies for unknown reasons. As the Major and her partner Batou (Akio Ôtsuka) close in on The Puppet Master, they begin to uncover troubling secrets that lead them to question their own humanity.

For a start, Ghost in the Shell has a fantastic concept. Oshii’s vision of a near future where technology and humanity have become one is not as far-fetched now as it was just over 20 years ago. The somewhat bleak looking world is wonderfully realised through beautiful animation, which gives the film a very Blade Runner-esque feel.

The film also has a great score from Kenji Kawai. It sets the tone throughout, with some long stretches of the film being accompanied by nothing but the haunting opening score in the background. These stretches are needed however as the film requires a lot of thinking. This, however, is one of Ghost in the Shell’s biggest problems. The ideas and themes explored in the film, particularly those based on what it means to be human, are conveyed in a way that is very difficult to follow. The film’s run-time does not allow for a thorough explanation of the world’s lore and instead throws a lot of information at you in a very short amount of time. Due to this, you’d be forgiven for being confused by the film’s ending and the events that led up to it.

Verdict: A thought-provoking anime that struggles to fit in all its ideas, but is still thoroughly entertaining. 4/5

The ultimate week-long cinematic experience at Showcase Cinema de Lux Southampton takes place from 9th-15th June 2017 at Showcase Cinema, Southampton Watermark Centre. Tickets, as well as a full-line up of events can be viewed here.

Ghost in the Shell (2017)

The live action Ghost in the Shell, which came out earlier this year, again focuses on the Major, but this time she has the name Mira Killian (Scarlett Johansson). Having her brain placed in the body of a cyborg after an accident, the Major is assigned to Section 9 to hunt the terrorist known as Kuze (Michael Pitt) who is hunting down members of Hanka Robotics’ mysterious project 2571. As the Major and her team learn more about Kuze and his motives, she begins to question the nature of her identity.

Like the anime before it, Ghost in the Shell is a visual spectacle with the world from the original film fully realised here by director Rupert Sanders. That being said, the world seems a lot less bleak than the 1995 version, but this appears to be the case because we see the Major explore more than in the first movie. For a film that is mostly CGI though, the visuals are very impressive.

Scarlett Johansson is excellent in the film and successfully captures Major’s lack of emotion and expression in her performance. Also great is the returning character of Batou played very well here by Pilou Asbæk. Peter Ferdinando’s Cutter is not the most interesting villain, but the actor performs his role well enough to make him less cartoonish than he is written at times.

The first half of the film is unfortunately quite a bore with not a lot going on in terms of story progression. Like the anime, the problem of world building and explaining things quickly hinders the audience’s understanding at times. However, the different yet more simple plot of the live action adaptation does make the story easier to follow and it has to be said that the quality significantly ramps up after Major’s first confrontation with Kuze.

The film is also a great homage to the anime. Some scenes are recreated almost shot for shot, very faithfully and in a way that works for the film; nothing feels forced in. The same can be said for a few story elements that appear as well. Certain plot points and character actions are straight out of the 1995 version but are written in such a way that they make sense to the new story.

Verdict: Despite being very slow for the first half, the film is a faithful adaptation of the original and changes enough to keep it interesting by the end. 3/5

Ghost in the Shell (2017), directed by Rupert Sanders, is distributed in the UK by  Paramount Pictures, Certificate 12a

Overall, watching the two Ghost in the Shell films (not including the anime’s sequels), back to back is a good way to really appreciate them. Their complex ideas of what it really means to be human, as well as their relevance to today with regards to technology’s role in society, makes them both very interesting films.

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Third-year History student - Enjoys Film, TV and Video Games

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