So immaculately designed to be of a future aesthetic that really hasn’t existed since the late 90s that it’s hard for me not to at least fall a little under its spell. Johansson brings a Deneuve-like blankness to the role that’s perfect for the role, recalling her amazing work in Under the Skin. As a person who never really cared for the original anime’s goofy sci-fi, philosophical speeches, this one’s purely superficial interest in those aspects worked for me. It moves like the original never did, probably because this is an action movie, first and foremost.
As for the whitewashing controversy – well, yeah, it’s still fucked at a very basic level. However, I was surprised to find that the writers had at least attempted a justification for it, a justification which has thematic threads throughout the script. Whether or not this was a post-controversy rationalisation, the choice the filmmaker’s make is purposeful and almost works. Ghost in the Shell attempts to be a commentary on a post-nationalist, globalised culture – one that informs its very production and the way film distribution is changing day to day. Is globalisation the result of the still lingering tendrils of imperialism? What will be its effect on the future? These are the questions that the film raises when it reveals the origin/rationale for The Major’s race.
Now, the big problem with this approach is that the film doesn’t actually make a statement regarding those questions. There’s no opinion posited, even though it feints at the obvious negative. And so it ends up feeling half-assed, insensitive. Which, I guess actually plays into the heart of its explorations.