The trend of movies inspired by comics continues with “Ghost in the Shell.”
This comic is not a usual Western story. It is based on a Manga comic – the Japanese version of comics.
“Ghost in the Shell” stars Scarlett Johansson as Major. Her character is the first of her kind – a cyber-enhanced creation.
Once she was a human, but a tragedy came and the only part of her human body saved was her brain. It was placed in a robotic body, turning her into a weapon used in battle with the worst criminals in what is called Sector 9.
In this future world, humans are routinely cyber-enhanced. The chief seller of these enhancements is Hanka Industries, which created Major in hopes of ultimately creating an army of similar, super soldiers.
Because of her uniqueness, the leader of Sector 9, Aramaki (Takeshi Kitano), tries to protect Major.
But the major plotline is a collision course between Major and a terrorist named Kuze (Michael Pitt), who is creating havoc. In a confrontation between Kuze and Major, he warns her to not trust Hanka Industries.
What follows is an adventure in a world that looks like it is an updated “Blade Runner” set. A bunch of action sequences are strung together with a subplot about Major trying to find her identity. This is why the title is what it is.
The title refers to the belief that what Major becomes is a soul captured in a robotic body. She is a ghost in the shell of her new cybernetic self.
That aspect opens opportunity for the church. It speaks to the questions, “What is the nature of humanity? Do we have a soul?”
What the Bible says is that we do not have a soul, but rather we are a soul. When God created Adam, he formed him from the dust of the ground and then he breathed his Spirit into Adam and Adam became a soul.
This creates a problem for me because the movie is a mess filled with huge issues. This makes it a hard consideration to get to that discussion.
One issue is that the movie is what has been called “whitewashed.” It is a non-Western story that is filled with Western actors. Johansson is a fine actress; she provides a good performance but is miscast here.
Another problem is that the studio wanted the movie to get a PG-13 rating, and they have a movie with lots of bloodless violence. There are dozens of characters that get shot and there is not one drop of blood shed.
Add to this that the movie does not do what a good movie does: tell stories that develop characters.
This movie is trying to set up a franchise. In other words, they want to tell us more than one story in this universe. That means the work that needs to be done will be done later in another movie.
To be honest, this is visually a wonderful movie, but you cannot use pretty pictures to cover over the train wreck that this movie is.
A movie should tell a compelling story and ask us to think. This movie does not do that. And that is a shame.
There is so much possibility to this story, but it is lost and left on the table of the decision making. How sad.
Michael Parnell is pastor of Temple Baptist Church in Raleigh, North Carolina. He is married and has two boys. His love is for movies, and he can be found in a theater most Fridays.
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence, suggestive content and some disturbing images.
Director: Rupert Sanders
Writers: Jamie Moss, William Wheeler and Ehren Kruger, based on the comic by Shirow Masamune.
Cast: Scarlett Johansson (Major), Pilou Asbaek (Batou), Takeshi Kitano (Aramaki), Juliette Binoche (Dr. Ouelet), Michael Pitt (Kuze).
The movie’s website is here.