I did promise a movie review of Ghost in the Shell a while back, so here it is!
My Quickie Review
This movie was beautiful to look at. Honestly, it was a visual feast. The acting was mostly great. The story was.... okay. They really missed a trick, I feel, when they didn't do more to explore the idea of human-machine integration. That said, I liked the story. I just feel they could have done a deep philosophical dive, and they didn't. Also, yes, I had an issue with representation here, but it turned out to be far more complicated than I thought it was going to be.
My Longer Review
This is pretty plain, all things considered. Behind the beautiful visuals, the movie is rather bland. As I already mentioned, they really did miss a trick in exploring what humanity is, and where the line can be drawn, or if it can be drawn at all. Instead, they went for a much more generic story line.
Don't get me wrong, it was still very enjoyable, but also quite bland. It was safe, is what I'm trying to say, and in a movie like this, I expect to be challenged. With movies like this, I don't want safe. I want strange, and strong, weird and wonderful. In this regard, the movie disappointed.
Now, as to the representation controversy, this movie did make strides towards some inclusion. The leader of Section 9 was Japanese, and spoke exclusively Japanese. That was nice. The major's mother was also Japanese. But almost everyone else was white. The major's shell, the scientists who engineered major's new mechanical body, and the doctor responsible for her care: white. Most of Section 9, at least those with speaking parts: white. Though there was one aboriginal Australian and a Chinese actor who both had more than one line, most of the talkers were white.
I have heard people argue that in Japan, the whiteness of the cast was not an issue. To this I can only say, of course it wasn't. In Japan, there is no lack of representation of Japanese people in their media. This is not true of Asian Americans. And they deserve to star in stories inspired, based off, or created from Asian works.
More to the point, as a white person, I've kinda gotten tired of white people stories in my media; visual media based on foreign stories in particular. Call me weird, but I would like to have my Asian stories have an Asian cast. I'm interested in the world and people around me. Whiteness is boring. I live it. Show me something new, Hollywood. You are custodians of imagination. Start imagining!
More to the point, as a white person, I don't need to see a white person on screen for me to empathise with them. I'm equally capable of empathising with folk of all stripes, because they're human beings and so am I. Skin colour or sexual orientation is not a barrier. I wish film-makers stopped seeing it as one.
This isn't to say that any of the white actors didn't do a good job. They did. But it was also boring.
Also, there is something about the way Scarlett Johansson held herself in this film that I found bothersome. I have no idea what it was, but there was something a little odd about it. I can't put my finger on it. It may have been a deliberate character choice, given that her body is mechanical. That might cause things to move a little oddly. In which case, I'm an awful person who is bothered by the way someone walks. Still, it was noticeable enough for me to remark upon it.
This movie was visually stunning, but ultimately disappointing. Beautiful visuals cannot make up for bland story-telling, and lack of imagination. I'm not sorry I watched it. As a distraction for a few hours, it was adequate. But for a movie like this, adequate is simply not good enough.