Based on a popular graphic novel by Marasume Shirow and directed by Rupert Sanders (“Snow White and the Huntsman”), Ghost in the Shell is a visually stunning experience with a fine core performance by Scarlett Johansson (“Captain America: Civil War”), but it borrows so much of other, mostly better science fiction films and TV series, that charges of grand larceny should be levied against writers William Wheeler (“Queen of Katwe”), Ehren Kruger (“Transformers: Age of Extinction”) and Jamie Moss (“Street Kings”). It’s fine to incorporate good ideas, but this movie seems to grab ANYTHING it can.
So let’s review — and dissect just how this Ghost in the Shell rehashes and how it actually becomes a shell in and of itself. Major (Johansson) survives a terrorist bombing and is rebuilt with a robotic body (think “The Bionic Woman”), while her intact brain is placed inside the “shell” (“The Robot vs. The Aztec Mummy,” look, I didn’t say ALL the pictures it steals from were great).
Soon, Major and her co-workers become anti-crime super fighters working for an all-knowing evil corporation, Hanku (see “RoboCop”). This group works in a Tokyo-like loud, bright, crowded metropolis featuring neon billboards and large, flashy holographic images (like “Blade Runner”) with an ultra modern transportation system (similar to “Minority Report”) while toiling for their ancient Asian master, Aramaki (Takeshi Kitano, “While the Women Are Sleeping”) which is pulled right from “Kung Fu Panda.”
While responding to an incident where an African ambassador (Christopher Obi, “Burke and Hare”) is kidnapped and a Hanku official is murdered, Major and her partner, Batou (Pilou Asbaek, “Ben-Hur”), save the ambassador and capture one of the killer cyborgs. To find out it’s origins, Major taps into its deep mainframe (much like the dream infiltration of “Inception”), but is hacked herself by a mysterious entity.
Major is captured by the dark being Kuze (Michael Pitt, “I Origins”), who reveals that all is not as it seems and the technology that separates humans and robots is being blurred all the time. Later, she begins experiencing some “glitches,” feels that maybe the memories she holds so dear may have been planted by a vast network bent on usurping the freedom of the individual (“The Matrix” comes to mind here).
A visit to a female stranger exacerbates those sensations.
Finally, she confronts a Hanku researcher, Dr. Ouelet (Juliette Binoche, Academy Award winner for “The English Patient”) and finds out some terrible secrets about her condition. Fearing a mutiny, the villainous Hanku CEO, Cutter (Peter Ferdinando, “High-Rise”) sends a host of incompetent, idiotic, easy-to-kill henchmen (“Star Wars,” James Bond,” “The Lord of the Rings” and just about EVERY film franchise on the planet do the same), as well as a large cyber-tank (reminiscent of “The Terminator”) that threatens to blast everyone and everything into oblivion.
Despite the pick-pocketing, let’s at least give kudos to the cinematography (Jess Hall, “Transcendence”), the art department (led by Richard L. Johnson, “Pacific Rim”) and the special effects (supervised by Yves De Bono, “Ender’s Game”) because, as mentioned previously, Ghost in the Shell looks absolutely fantastic. In love — and in the movies — however, looks are not everything.