(director: Rupert Sanders; screenwriters: Jonathan Herman/Jamie Moss/William Wheeler, Ehren Kruger, based on the comic by Shirow Masamune; cinematographer: Jess Hall; editors: Neil Smith, Billy Rich; music: Lorne Balfe, Clint Mansell; cast: Scarlett Johansson(Major Mira Killian), ‘Beat’ Takeshi Kitano(Aramaki), Pilou Asbaek (Batou), Michael Pitt (Kuze), Juliette Binoche (Dr.Quelet), Chin Han (Han), Danusia Samal (Ladriya ), Peter Ferdinando (Cutter), Kaori Momoi (Hairi), Anamaria Marinca (Dr. Dahlin), Daniel Henshall (Skinny Man), Lasarus Ratuere (Ishikawa), Yutaka Izumihara (Saito); Runtime: 106; MPAA Rating: PG-13; producers: Avi Arad, Ari Arad, Steven Paul, Michael Costigan; Paramount; 2017)

A film we know should be better if the story could only resonate with deep thoughts and not venture down the road of the usual action thriller.

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

The live-action remake of Mamoru Oshii’s 1995 Japanese animation classic “Ghost in the Shell” disappoints despite its technical advancements and solid international cast. It’s directed in a workmanlike but questionable mindless way as a CGI-laden pulp action-pic by Rupert Sanders(“Snow White and the Huntsman”/”The Juliet”), with tech prowess deemed more important than advancing an edgy humanistic story through thoughtful dialogue. Co-written by Jonathan Herman, Jamie Moss, William Wheeler, and Ehren Kruge to keep it simple for marketing purposes, thereby the art is sacrificed for the bottom line. It’sbased on the comic by Shirow Masamune. Though visually stunning, the narrative is drained of the original’s philosophy musings about bots-the very thing that made it a classic on the level of such dystopian mind-bending sci-fi films as “Dark City,” “The Matrix,” “The Blade Runner” and “Metropolis.” Though it repeatedly tells us “Humanity is our virtue,” its storytelling lacks the gravitas to make it profound.

It’s set in the futuristic New Port City, a place with hologram commercials that line its skyscrapers, the streets are lit with dazzling colors and there are noisy dark black market spots to fear.

Scarlett Johansson is cast as Major, the Asian heroine (controversy surrounded the choice of a white American woman portraying an Asian, though it had no effect on the way I saw things), programed with fighting skills as a crime-fighting human/cyborg hybrid. We’re told at first her body was destroyed by an accident but her brain is preserved and placed in a nearly indestructible robot container. We observe her return to consciousness by the compromised scientist (Juliette Binoche, French actress), who is filled with pride over her military-designed creation of a bot who acts human. Major keeps her human brain, called a ghost because her memory is wiped clean, while her body is a man-made shell. She’s the first successful one-of-a-kind perfect marriage between humanity and technology. Meanwhile the villain Cutter (Peter Ferdinando), the owner of the Hanka Corp, the largest manufacturer of artificially intelligent beings, says Major is only a weapon.

Flash forward a year and the rubber-suited Major, part of Section 9, a special counter-cyberterrorist group that’s headed by the wise cop Aramaki (Takeshi Kitano, a great Japanese director), is partnered with the massive protective cyborg policeman Batou (Pilou Asbaek, Danish actor). They are on the job fighting corporate terrorists, as we learn someone is trying to kill officials and scientists associated with the Hanka Corp by hacking into their brains and programing them to kill their own.

We eventually learn the culprit is the creepy cyborg Kuze (Michael Pitt), who has links to Major. He has a curious story to relate to Major about why her memory was erased and why he seeks revenge against Cutter. From here on Major is determined to find out who she really is.

As we get to following Kuze’s back story, we must endure the usual quota of Hollywood action-pic chases and shoot-outs, as this humorless presentation glumly takes us to dark places–leaving us lured into a film we know should be better if the story could only resonate with deep thoughts and not venture down the road of the usual action thriller.

Ghost in the Shell