16 Original must be betterI cannot decide which element of Ghost in the Shell (107 minutes) was the most problematic. Was it casting Scarlett Johansson as an Asian character? The wooden acting? The insipid dialogue? The retread plot? The ridiculous plot twists? The confusing character motivations? The fact that the script was written by at least six people, all with conflicting ideas about what was supposed to happen? Or that it was probably edited by a Bonobo chimpanzee that had been given a bottle of tequila, hit on the head and locked in a small room with editing software? Somebody call the ASPCA, because I am ready to beat this tired old dog of a movie to death.

I get the cyberpunk thing. Oppressive governments, big corporations, technological domination — I can’t say I was ever a huge fan of the genre, but I’ve read William Gibson’s Neuromancer and Animatrix was watchable. Heck, I might go put on Johnny Mnemonic after I finish writing this review. The main problem I have with most cyberpunk anime is that it tends to focus on the toys instead of the characters, and Ghost in the Shell was no exception. I found the whole thing confusing. Maybe because I never saw the anime upon which it was based?

The movie is stupid, and I doubt the Venn diagram of which groups are into the movie is much more than a huge circle around the phrases “People who like anime” and “People who like Scarlett Johansson,” but, Spoiler Alert: I am about to give away plot points. If you are the automatic outlier who reads my reviews, plans to go see Ghost in the Shell, but has no idea about the plot, you should probably stop reading.

The plot revolves around the idea that a big corporation with vague ties to a governmental anti-terrorist group called Section 9 would find it cost-effective to kidnap runaways and experiment on them instead of signing up mercenaries, soldiers, police officers, or, holy hot garbage, any of the desperate people without access to quality tech who would gladly sign away their current crappy lives for the chance at becoming an actual, immortal superhero. Are the writers seriously trying to sell the audience on the idea that a corporation would foolishly risk exposure and PR nightmares and lawsuits by kidnapping someone they know nothing about, implanting false memories in their brains, inserting them into an all-powerful cybernetic shell, training them in all kinds of crazy spy skills, giving them a flipping invisibility suit and lending them out to a government security group? Did they not think to check hospitals for terminal patients? Did no one suggest recruiting from those wounded in the line of battle?

I know, I know. You’re thinking, the movie has no conflict if the corporation was completely chill about getting volunteers. I can write around that problem in about five minutes. Remember an awesome little flick called Source Code? The guy in the box was the only guy who could be in the box because only he could bend space, time and narrative logic — because he had a special brain. Insert a bit of throwaway dialogue into this script about how a specific kind of mind was required to contribute the “ghost” that would animate the “shell,” and my level of disgust is no longer sitting at 11. Otherwise? It’s me, throwing popcorn at the screen, screaming “Be less STUPID, you STUPIDHEAD.”

Well, at least I got some catharsis through writing this scathing review. I will give credit where credit is due and note that some of the visuals were not completely crappy. Those that are not hardcore ScarJo/anime fans should probably spend their time elsewhere. 

Now playing at Patriot 14 + IMAX.

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