“Believing she was rescued from near death, Major (Johansson) becomes the first of her kind: a human mind inside an artificial body designed to fight the war against cyber crime. While investigating a dangerous criminal, Major makes a shocking discovery – the corporation that created her lied about her past life, in order to control her. Unsure what to believe, Major will stop at nothing to unravel the mystery of her true identity and exact revenge against the corporation she was built to save.” – Official Description
Directed by Rupert Sanders, Ghost in the Shell runs 107 minutes and also stars Pilou Asbaek, “Beat” Takeshi Kitano, Michael Carmen Pitt, Chin Han, and Juliette Binoche.
This release comes with the 4K Ultra HD version with HDR enhancement, the Blu-ray version, and the Digital HD copy.
Ghost in the Shell began as Japanese manga series that has since become a franchise. To learn more about the franchise’s evolution and its relation to this current movie, see the special feature called “Hard-Wired Humanity: Making Ghost in the Shell.” It does an excellent job of explaining the story’s origin and pointing out direct connections to the 2017 movie. While Ghost in the Shell is not a new concept, the 2017 movie explores a new plot line. This movie takes characters from the original Japanese literature and comics and introduces them to a new threat.
The movie begins by introducing us to Major Mira Killian (Johansson). After barely surviving a cyber terrorist attack, her brain has been transferred to an entirely mechanical body. While many other characters are mechanically enhanced in some way, Major is the first person to have an entirely robotic body. We are presented almost immediately to a question that Major struggles with throughout the film: is she human or machine? This question drives many of Major’s actions and choices. Johansson does an excellent job of playing the middle ground. Her movements have a mechanical, robotic feel to them, and Major never gets extremely emotional; however, the feelings of loneliness, doubt, and confusion are clearly evident on her face in some scenes.
After introducing Major to her new synthetic body and introducing viewers to her character, the movie jumps ahead one year. In the movie’s first big action scene (and there are lots of those in this movie), we learn that Major works for Section 9 – a group of cyber defenders meant to fight cyber terrorism and cyber attacks. We also meet Batou (Asbaek), Major’s partner. Batou brings out the humanity and, at times, the vulnerability in Major’s character. Asbaek takes what could easily be a forgettable secondary character and makes him one of the best things about the movie. To the credit of everybody who made this movie, these two don’t share a romantic story line. While Batou may have feelings for Major, it is never explicitly stated and never takes away from their relationship as partners. Whether they be fighting in a battle or discussing Major’s mysterious past, some of the movie’s best scenes revolve around the partnership and, ultimately, friendship of these two characters.
Though the connection between these two characters is strong, the plot itself is not. We do have a big action sequence about ten minutes in, but it’s a little unclear how this sequence relates to the rest of the movie. It is briefly acknowledged later in the film, but the scene itself feels disconnected from the rest of the movie. Shortly after the big action intro, we see Major “deep dive” a defective machine in a morgue-type lab. This scene impacts the rest of the movie, but doesn’t feel nearly as important as the previous battle. In a way, this scene introduces the movie’s core plot line, but it feels like a run-of-the-mill police procedural scene.
The movie’s central plot line doesn’t really begin until the start of the second act. Section 9 is hunting for a serial hacker on a killing spree. Viewers familiar with the Japanese manga will know that this villain is a combination of several antagonists from the series. Unfortunately, this story line does not continue for the rest of the movie, and a different central villain emerges for the movie’s final act.
If you watched any of the trailers, you know that Major is on a mission to learn the truth about who she is and where she came from. This idea dominates the final act, but given that the entire marketing campaign for the movie is based on this plot line, it should have been more predominant earlier in the film. The third act is too rushed in its attempts to provide a satisfying ending for Major’s quest and a large-scale, action-packed final battle.
Ghost in the Shell does feature some excellent special effects that manage to be aesthetically pleasing while also believable; however, the plot line can’t keep up. The first act fumbles around before finally introducing a plot line to carry the second act, yet the movie’s final climax and resolution feel like a separate story line. All in all, Ghost in the Shell is a visually interesting movie that is brought down by its disjointed and messy plot.
This release comes in a very shiny slip case that houses two discs. Disc 1 is the movie alone in 4K Ultra HD with an HDR enhancement. Disc 2 plays the Blu-ray version of the movie, as well as the following special features:
• Hard-Wired Humanity: Making Ghost in the Shell (30:05) – a look at the making of the movie and its connections to the original Japanese literature and films
• Section 9: Cyber Defenders (11:29) – provides an in-depth look at each member of Major’s team
• Man & Machine: The Ghost Philosophy (10:36) – highlights the struggle Major feels between humanity and machinery
To watch the 4K Ultra HD version, you will need a 4K Ultra HD TV with HDR capability, an Ultra HD Blu-ray player, and a high-speed HDMI cable, but viewers who only have a plain old Blu-ray player shouldn’t feel too left out. This movie is filled with special effects that look excellent even in the Blu-ray version. Fine details are evident, and the effects (with one or two minor exceptions) look believable and realistic. This is a strong feat, given the amount of special effects used to display each character’s enhancements and the technologically-advanced futuristic world in which they live. The effects really do look good, but let’s take a minute to talk about the color. This is a very darkly lit movie that relies heavily on blues, grays, and blacks. When other colors are used, they are bold. For example, early in the movie, a scene features quick colorful flashes of bright lights that fill the screen. Even without the HDR upgrade, these are nearly blinding. The black levels look good and the HDR upgrade enhances the fine details highlighted in the darker scenes. Overall, this movie looks good and was a great choice for a 4K Ultra HD and HDR release.
The movie is presented with an English Dolby Atmos soundtrack and offers subtitles in English, English SDH, French, Spanish, and Portuguese. For the most part, the movie has decent sound, but the audio doesn’t stand out like the movie’s visual elements. In a few scenes, dialogue sounds muffled and is a bit difficult to understand. These instances are brief though, and overall, audio sounds good. Sound effects, particularly those related to machinery, sound excellent.
While Ghost in the Shell does feature impressive special effects, the plot feels disjointed and confused. The movie is worth seeing at least once, if only for the effects, but the story itself will not resonate with many viewers.