This review is part of my Remake Preview series, where I watch the original version (or versions) of a movie that is set to be re-made in the near future.
Between films like Lucy, Her, and Under the Skin, Scarlett Johansson seems to be incredibly interested in the subject of transhumanism, what it means to be human. Her next major starring role is in the 2017 live-action remake of Ghost in the Shell, due out on March 31st, and if the 1995 anime film (originally based on a 1989 manga series) is any indication, transhumanism will remain firmly in her wheelhouse.
Ghost in the Shell is a science fiction set in a future where the majority of humankind has cybernetic enhancements, and is connected by a vast electronic network of human consciousness. The audience follows Motoko Kusanagi, a cybernetically enhanced agent who is tasked with tracking down an elusive hacker/terrorist known only as the Puppet Master, a hacker who is particularly nefarious and difficult to catch because of how he (or she) uses humans as puppets, destroying their memories and lives in the process.
Ghost in the Shell is a beautifully animated film, with careful thought put into both thrilling action sequences as well as meticulously thought out futuristic settings. The attention to detail is exquisite. The atmospheric music sets the tone well, striking subtle chord.
Also well thought-out is the philosophical repercussions of the technology depicted in the film. The film has a thorough understanding of the implications that the technology has to the characters, both those who are more enhanced, as well as those who are less so. For a film made in 1995, none of the futuristic technology feels dated, something of an achievement for a science fiction film, and the moral and ethical dilemmas that the characters face are fresh.
Ghost in the Shell isn’t perfect; some of the imagery is overly on-the-nose, and at times the dialogue becomes overly explanatory or expository. However, the ambition and vision that went into the creation of this film deserves to be applauded and as a film it more than overcomes its flaws.
It’s easy to see how Ghost in the Shell falls in the lineage of transhumanist science fiction, from books like Neuromancer all the way to modern films like 2015’s Ex Machina. I hope that the upcoming live-action remake presents audiences with new and interesting questions and depictions of technology to ponder and provoke our thoughts; but even if the remake is just a rehash of existing themes and philosophical questions from the original movie, there’s more than enough meat on the bone. This is a film that I’m very curious to see.
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