The Plot (biiiig spoilers)Disclaimer;
Most of this is from my memory. I watched the film a couple of weeks ago by this point so not everything might be in the right order or exactly correct . . . still, I assure you this is more-or-less how it went down.
|Off to do section 9 stuff. This is Batou before he gets his eye mods.|
Making the major exclusive to ghost/shell technology sucks in a few ways. Firstly the hard sci-fi stuff that permeates the manga and anime concerning complex details and questions surrounding the then commonplace ghost/shell technology, which made Ghost in the Shell and Oshii's animation such a unique (for the time) fan favourite is mostly gutted. This renders most of the cyberpunk elements purely aesthetic -- it's cyberpunk because there's robots and future cars and holograms and stuff, but the larger themes (corporate power and overreach, A.I. ethics, SCIENCE! etc.) are mostly glossed over. I get that not everyone gives a crap about cyberpunk and the film biz is a numbers game but it's what makes GITS, GITS.
|The only ghost.|
The film starts in a scene that is reminiscent of the first scene of Oshii's animation, wherein the major and other section 9ners are staking out an important meeting of shady business/government types at an exclusive club/restaurant/lounge populated with robot geisha -- presumably, at least partially designed after model and actress Rila Fukushima. There's some deal going on when the geisha-bots start going nuts and attack the diners. One of them is a big-wig at Hanka Robotics, a conglomerate that has a hand it most of the things happening in the film. The geisha-bot plugs into his brain and starts stealing company secrets (maybe). The major, in stealth camouflage, bursts into the restaurant through a window and starts taking down geisha-bots. The rest of section 9 takes the stairs. Geisha-bots are dispatched (exit Fukushima) and it is revealed that some sinister hooded hacker-man is responsible. Who is he?!
|It ain't cyberpunk without shady corporations. Check.|
The Major scans the brain of the one of the geisha-bots and finds that it has been tampered with, in the backroom of a shady yakuza-run establishment! Heavens! Queue the obligatory beatin'-up-the-yakuza-in-a-bar scene. They find the hooded-man but alas, he is but a hologram.
|Who is that sinister minister?!|
The garbage man is captured! Section 9 interrogates him. Turns out he has no wife! The memories were implanted by the mysterious hacker-man so the garbage man would hack into stuff as a sort of surrogate. Once again . . . how is this possible if the Major is the only "ghost"? How can they hack peoples brains?! They don't explain this. I suppose we are expected to believe that since people have various bodily augmentations (including neural) it simply stands to reason that these augmentations have interfaces that can be hacked. Still, implanting memories is a pretty big jump. They explained stuff like this in the manga and anime but in the movie it's just a thing we are expected to swallow -- suspension of disbelief and all that -- "Okay so they can hack people's brains. Cool."
This is actually a really cool scene. Kuze is awesomely unsettling since he's a basically a failed experiment that doesn't "work" quite right. He speaks in monotone and his voice skips and stalls periodically, like a buffering video or a CD skipping. His appearance is pretty interesting too as his shell has not been properly maintained by registered Hanka technicians and bits of him are missing or have been jerry rigged. Very Oshii-esque.
|Kuze might be the best part of the film. He's also, curiously, a white guy named Kuze.|
The Major stops taking her medicine and starts digging up info about her past-life. Turns out maybe her parents weren't killed in an explosive terrorist plot after-all. Her investigation leads her to a mysterious apartment, with a mysterious Japanese woman. Who is she?! She is . . . get ready for it . . . the mother of Motoko Kusanagi!
Wait . . . huh? Motoko Kusanagi, is the name of the Major in the original film and manga, I thought they changed it in this version to Mira Killian cause whiteness and things.
Yeah . . . that's what I thought too.
|I couldn't find an actual still of Kaori Mamoi from the film . . . but someone made this which is kind of funny. The resemblance is uncanny . . . no, not it is not.|
After that, the Major confronts the doctor who created her who up until then was sort of like a mother figure to her and her and Kuze team up. They figure out the shrine-thing was a place they used to hang out in, in their past lives in the slums with other street kids. It was on fire cause it got raided by Hanka goons who kidnapped Kusnagi, Kuze and the others for ghost/shell experiments. They eventually take on a shady Hanka CEO and his spider tank in a scene that resembles the climax of the Oshii film. Kuze is killed by the bad guy and the final scene has her brooding in front Motoko Kusanagi's grave stone before she goes rogue and takes off. But by then I didn't really care all that much because I couldn't stop thinking about how the script essentially took the elephant in the room and kicked it square in it's elephant-nuts so it started rampaging around and wrecking the place -- as elephants do when they get angry.
|The inclusion of tachikomas would have made this movie better.|
This makes for some pretty gaping plot holes as well as greatly exacerbates the problem most people had with this film in the first place, which, from a narrative and marketing point of view is ridiculous and pretty stupid. There isn't even justification for this "stylistic choice" offered in the narrative and since Kuze and Mira Motoko Killian Kusanagi are the only examples of the ghost/shell project we have to go on, we are forced to assume that this is just what they do. The ghost/shell technology is also totally new in this story, so the whole "race doesn't matter in this context cause consciousnesses aren't fixed to a physical form (or whatever)" defence doesn't even hold up.
On paper you have this movie about a robotics company who is essentially kidnapping random Japanese street-kids and turning them into synthetic white people via some brand new project for no discernible reason. At least if there was a narrative explanation offered it would offer fans of this film some ammo with which to combat it's critics, but it doesn't. To make matters worse, the original subject matter didn't even have this. These elements were part of the original screen play!
They, seemingly, inadvertently made a film about white-washing in the most literal sense! It's hilarious! It's awful! It's insulting! It's racist! IT HURTS MY BRAIN! I was expecting to be like "well the controversy sucked, but the film was kinda cool and stuff" -- like, watching it would have made everything better or at least a bit more bearable, but instead it just made everything worse! The controversy is just smacking you in the face through the whole ending like wet rubber glove (or some other cruder appendage) so you can't even ignore it if you tried. (I understand this is likely not the mental experience everyone had watching this film but I can't get over it).
So In Conclusion:
You'd think that if you were making movie for tonnes of money, money that you needed to recoup, and people were causing a ruckus about it you'd, ya know, maybe look into it and try to understand why people were so pissed off? So you could get as many people to see this thing as possible? Maybe try to placate some of the angry mobs? But no . . . no attempt whatsoever. After the film bombed the producers were quoted as saying that "maybe the controversy had something to do with it" (paraphrased). Yeah maybe, that and the fact the story was as recycled as a hipster's grocery bag. In any case I'm convinced that this controversy could have been avoided by an afternoon of internet browsing. But "Hollywood don't care, Hollywood got things ta do, Hollywood got focus groups to monitor." For an industry that relies on the masses for income, they seem to be pretty good at ignoring sizeable and noisy segments of them. Social conundrums aside, it's extremely frustrating to watch from a logical stand-point. This is bad business.
And that's all folks! I really just wrote this review so I could rant about the ending (seriously; I also like writing). Despite the ridiculousness of this film, it's worth mentioning that its fairly entertaining in its own right. The action, the cinematography, the costumes, were all pretty neat. The film likely wouldn't have done very well even if a Japanese woman was cast in the lead, but honestly they probably would have made a bit more money back, cause quite a few people boycotted this film cause of the casting choice (face palm again) -- and Scarjo really didn't add much to in the end. Tragic really. So I mean, if you're wanting to watch this film out of pure curiosity and you don't really care about the controversy and stuff, then yeah, I guess you could do a lot worse to fill a rainy afternoon. The film, is mediocre, but the way the studio handled the controversy was abysmal. Also if you haven't seen any other GITS stuff, watch that instead. It's better.
Join me next time, when I talk/rant about something else that is in no way related to Ghost in the Shell.
Thanks for reading.
P.S. Read the manga, it's good, and it's not ridiculously long like most manga.