Review: Ghost in the Shell

Distributor: Paramount Pictures
Director: Rupert Sanders
Writers: Shirow Masamune, Jamie Moss, William Wheeler, Ehren Kruger
Starring: Scarlett Johansson, Juliette Binoche, Pilou AsbækTakeshi Kitano
Genre: Science Fiction & Fantasy, Action & Adventure
Rating: PG-13
After watching the trailer and falling hook, line, and sinker for the music, I couldn’t wait to watch Ghost in the Shell. Anything with that much action, the potential for an amazing soundtrack, with scenery that rivaled Blade Runner had to be worth the time. And although I’m not a huge Scarlett Johansson fan (not even as the Black Widow), I hoped the manga-turned-movie wouldn’t disappoint.

Content Guide

Violence/Scary Images: There are lots of hand-to-hand combat scenes and even more gun battles. Some of the battles are gory, including blood and guts from trapped bystanders. There are few shots that Major and Batou miss, so lots of people end up with gaping head wounds or splayed in blood. There is a suicide, although not directly shown, the viewer knows exactly what happened and how.
Language/Crude Humor: The middle finger flies once. A** and S*** are used once and God’s name is taken in vain once.
Spiritual Content: Not much. There is a tiny, bitty reference when a diplomat says that bionic technology is “messing with the human soul.”
Sexual Content: Major spends quite a bit of time in a body-hugging suit that leaves nothing to the imagination (but it has a reason). There’s a nightclub scene with skimpy outfits and dancers with even less clothing. 
Drug/Alcohol References: Ironically, one of the techs at the facility is a chain smoker. Batou knocks down a few beers at the nightclub and on a boat. And though not technically a drug, Major does take something her creator gives her to help her brain not reject her robotic body.
Positive Content: Major questions what is left of her humanity in this new body. She makes human decisions, like using her body as a shield, versus relying on the cybernetic response. Both Major and Batou are fiercely loyal to each other as partners.


I’m admittedly a sucker for dystopian flicks. Though I’d never read the original Japanese manga, I tend to like a lot of anime and manga plots. Also, there tends to be lots of sword fights, which are mind-blowing to watch. I glimpsed at a few reviews before I went and found a bunch of people were complaining that Scarlett Johansson had been cast over an Asian actress. Well, when it came down to it, even the original writer agreed that she was a good fit. And let’s face it…Paramount Pictures wanted to earn back its money.
There are tiny plot holes from the start. Major is the first of her kind—a human brain completely bonded with a robotic body. She just wakes up one day and accepts her life. Her creator, Dr. Ouelett, who is kind and motherly, explains that Major’s body was killed by terrorists, but they were able to save her mind. Major accepts it as the truth and trains with super assassins associated with the Hanka Robotics (in conjunction with the government, of course) to hunt the very people that killed her the first time…only they didn’t really kill her. Or did they?
There are fidgety, pixelated images that keep superimposing on Major’s visoin. Glitch in the Matrix? I think not. She learns that it’s her personal version of the ghost of Christmas past, from her life before. Even crazier? The guy she is pursuing, Kuze, gives her a creepy prophesy: “Collaborate with Hanka Robotics and be destroyed!” But why is it that every time she sees Kuze, the memory anomalies become clearer? And even worse, could his story about his past tangle with hers?

Scarlett Johansson, again, did not do much for me. Her delivery as a cyborg was almost believable. There were just too many parts where she could’ve been more mechanical or human, based on the scene. My favorite was her partner Batou, played by Pilou Asbæk. I don’t even know how to pronounce his name, but he carried most of the scenes they were in together. He was the quintessential “good cop with a soft heart,” plus an awesome set of cybernetic eyes he earns later in the movie. Michael Pitt was cast well as Kuze, though I truly wish there was more interaction with Kuze and Major. It seems like their lack of screen time made a bunch of my aforementioned plot holes.

No futuristic film is complete without visual effects. This one, however, still has me shaking my head. Props to Rupert Sanders for the head nod to Blade Runner. But then it kept going—shot after outdoor shot was grading on my nerves as homage to one of the best movies ever made. However, after the umpteenth floating advertisement or superimposed Asian family on the side of a building (he didn’t even take out the neon accessories) and it was overkill.
The soundtrack, though—fantastic! It bounces from “Clair de la Lune” to KI Theory’s cover of Depeche Mode’s “Enjoy The Silence.” I’ll admit, that’s the song that reeled me in. There are several songs by Takeshi Masuda, who has previous work in anime.
By the end of the movie, I was still trying to figure out some missing information that is probably laying on the editing room floor. The only moments I truly connected with were those with Batou and his nature to protect those he felt responsible for. The battles weren’t too epic and the ending was completely predictable from about five minutes into the film. Not something I’ll likely watch on purpose again, but if I did, I might enjoy the scenery again and again and again and again.



The Bottom Line


Sarah Bennett


  1. Ben on February 7, 2020 at 1:14 pm

    You should review the original ghost in the shell anime from the 90s as well.

  2. Charles/TWWK on May 31, 2017 at 9:51 am

    Lots of problems with this film, and it didn’t have a pinky’s worth of the depth of the earlier works on which it’s based, but I enjoyed it pretty thoroughly. It did exactly what I think it was meant to do: provide fun, be an homage to a number of different properties, and give us just the briefest of questions regarding what it means to be human.

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