"Effective, Provocative Science Fiction Thriller"


What You Need To Know:

GHOST IN THE SHELL is a live action update of a 1995 animated Japanese movie. It stars Scarlett Johansson as Major, a woman who suffered a terrible terrorist attack and whose brain has been encased in a female android shell. Her cyborg body is greatly enhanced. This allows her to track down a mysterious terrorist murdering high-level members of the Hanka Corporation, which provides cyborg technology to humanity. During her investigation, however, Major discovers her life wasn’t saved after an attack, it was stolen.

GHOST IN THE SHELL is an effective science fiction thriller that evokes the most striking elements of science fiction. Not the least of those elements is the battle between modern technology and our humanity. GHOST IN THE SHELL has a strong moral worldview with some redemptive qualities. It contains a touching mother-daughter theme, promotes justice and sides with the idea that human beings are more than just meat machines. That said, GHOST IN THE SHELL could use more heart and a better villain, is set in a dark and violent world, and is marred by a light revenge motif.


(BB, PP, C, FR, Ev, L, VV, N, A, M) Strong moral worldview, including a touching and uplifting mother-daughter subplot and good guys who are willing to sacrifice themselves for their partners, with a strong patriotic or Pro-American motif of a special police unit tasked with promoting justice in society and protecting people from harmful uses of technology, plus a positive redemptive consideration for retaining one’s humanity and soul within a dark, soulless, violent world of machine technology, and movie concludes that our actions determine who we are not our memories, but marred by a light revenge motif that undermines the justice theme (or at least seems to), plus a couple light references to cyborgs “evolving,” but this is defined very loosely; three obscenities, one light “My God” exclamation and woman comically gives her partner a finger gesture; strong, intense violence with some scary cyborg images includes intense gun battles, some martial arts fighting, many people shot dead (apparently) during gun battles, woman’s cyber arm sliced open, and there’s red parts exposed as in a real arm, male cyborg loses his legs, explosion damages man’s eyes and he gets them replaced with weird looking cyborg eyes looking like small round sunglass lenses, cyborg faces removed showing clockwork inside, cyborg heroine gets her cyborg arm torn off, and there’s some red exposed, human beings have cyborg connections on backs of their necks, etc.; no sex; no explicit nudity, but woman’s total cyborg body is flesh-colored and seems to be composed of parts with edges (her cyborg face is partially removed at one point showing just eyes encased in robot parts), woman dancer seems to be wearing a bikini, and female cyborg’s human-looking back is exposed with a partial view of breasts from behind; alcohol use; no smoking or drugs; and, light revenge motif, heroine deceived by her doctor but doctor eventually tells her the truth, a large hologram in background looks to be a Buddhist monk praying.

More Detail:

GHOST IN THE SHELL is a live action, international reboot of the acclaimed 1995 Japanese animated movie developed from a comic book. Updated for the 21st Century, the new movie stars Scarlett Johansson as Major, a young woman whose brain has been encased in a female robot android shell that allows her to track down a mysterious terrorist, who’s murdering high-level members of the Hanka Corp., which provides cyborg technology to humanity, including the government. As such, the movie is effective but could use a little more heart and a better villain. Thankfully, it contains only a limited amount of foul language, but it’s set in a dark, violent world, though the violence is less intense and less disturbing than many other recent PG-13 action movies. The strong moral worldview stresses justice, defends retaining one’s soul and humanity, and has a nice mother-daughter subplot during the second half, but it’s marred by a light revenge motif that taints the justice theme.

In the near future, Major (Scarlett Johansson) is the first of her kind. She’s a human saved from a terrible crash, who’s enhanced to be a perfect cyborg soldier devoted to stopping the world’s most dangerous terrorists and criminals. Scientists have encased Major’s human brain in an android cyborg body with tremendous enhancements. When terrorism reaches a new level that includes the ability to hack into people’s minds and control them, Major is uniquely qualified to stop it. She’s been made part of Section 9, a special police unit working for the Japanese Prime Minister and headed by a tough, older police veteran.

In the opening scene, a mysterious villain calling himself Kuze or Kusei has sent a team of assassins to murder a top official of the Hanka Corporation, the company that created the cyborg technology that saved Major’s life. As she prepares to face this new enemy, Major discovers she’s been lied to since her life wasn’t saved, it was stolen. She will stop at nothing to recover her past, find out who did this to her and stop them before they do it to others.

GHOST IN THE SHELL is an effective science fiction thriller but could use a little more heart and a better villain. For instance, there’s a touching mother-daughter theme, but it doesn’t really connect until the second half. Also, the character and the actor playing the truly evil villain isn’t revealed until the second half, and they aren’t that captivating. Finally, MOVIEGUIDE® doesn’t want to sound too harsh, but Scarlett Johansson perhaps should hone her acting talents a bit more, including enhancing her screen presence.

According to literature and movie scholar Frank McConnell in THE SCIENCE FICTION OF H.G. WELLS, there are at least five conventional story patterns in science fiction movie and literature: 1. Man grows apart from society (e.g., THX-1138 and THE BOOK OF ELI; 2. Man transforms other men (FRANKENSTEIN movies, ANT-MAN); 3. Man goes into the future (TIME AFTER TIME, THE TIME MACHINE with Rod Taylor, the original PLANET OF THE APES); 4. The future implodes upon man (MARVEL’S THE AVENGERS, INTERSTELLAR, the X-MEN movies, MINORITY REPORT, CLOUDY WITH A CHANCE OF MEATBALLS); and, 5. Man travels to outer space and finds worse or more beautiful beings (the ALIEN movies, STAR TREK movies and episodes, FORBIDDEN PLANET, GALAXY QUEST, GUARDANS OF THE GALAXY). Like the horror movie, the science fiction movie frequently shows humans in a new and/or strange context, testing them against the unknown. However, science fiction movies do this in a more detached, less personal, way. Often, the moral chaos of the horror movie becomes a social chaos in the science fiction movie. Of course, science fiction is also about the future and our hopes and anxieties for the future. Technology can play a key role in all of this. Many science fiction movies portray some aspect of the relationship between humans and their machines. Machines and technology can be seen in either a positive or a negative light, or both.

GHOST IN THE SHELL is almost a perfect example of real science fiction. In fact, it seems to evoke all of these stories and themes, except for Story No. 5. Of course, technology is a major theme in the story. As such, the movie says that retaining our humanity, including our soul or “ghost,” is vital in the cold modern world of super-technology. It also says that our identities are defined by our actions, not our memories. In addition, the movie shows that holding onto our identities as well as our liberty against a soulless world of technology and external controls is crucial.

Consequently, this GHOST IN THE SHELL has a strong moral worldview with some redemptive qualities. It includes the aforementioned, uplifting mother-daughter subplot. Also, the good guys are willing to risk their lives and even sacrifice their lives for their partners. Furthermore, the movie has a strong patriotic or Pro-American motif where Major’s special police unit is tasked with fighting cyber terrorism, promoting justice in society and protecting people from harmful uses of technology, including people who try to hack into other people’s cyborg enhancements. As such, the unit opposes any attempt, especially criminal attempts, to subvert cyborg technology out of greed or totalitarian interests.

Sadly, although there’s very little foul language in GHOST IN THE SHELL, the movie’s positive worldview is marred by a light revenge motif. This revenge motif taints the justice that’s obtained in the movie’s ending. Even so, the rest of the movie has such strong positive elements that, in general, GHOST IN THE SHELL leaves media-wise moviegoers with a generally positive experience.

That said, although the violence isn’t super-gory, there are moments where the cyborg characters damage their cyborg body parts or lose a cyborg arm or leg. GHOST IN THE SHELL also suffers from a high body count. Many bad guys are shot dead or killed, and one good guy is shot dead in the head. Some of the violence and cyborg enhancements will be scary for sensitive moviegoers, especially children. Finally, the heroine’s hard cyborg body is flesh-colored with multiple parts showing edges. So, it’s sometimes almost like she’s nude. Other times, when she does wear clothes, it looks like her cyborg body is covered with a realistic artificial skin, which doesn’t make sense considering the other images of her cyborg body parts. Either way, however, the nudity isn’t really explicit.

Overall, MOVIEGUIDE® advises strong or extreme caution regarding GHOST IN THE SHELL.

Quality: - Content: +2
Quality: - Content: +1