Ghost in the Shell 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Review
Let me first say that prior to watching this live action version of GHOST IN THE SHELL, I was not familiar with the story. I didn’t read the comic or watch the original anime movie, so I only know what I saw in this new film and I can’t compare it to any of GHOST IN THE SHELL iterations before it. From watching the film, it’s clear that there’s probably a decent story somewhere in here, but it was not given justice in a live action setting.
Scarlet Johansson is Major, the first successful example of a human brain in a completely synthetic body. She’s part of a military team used to investigate criminals and on one such mission, she comes across Kuze, who seems intent on killing scientists working at Hanka Robotics. After encountering Kuze, she starts to discover that everything she’s been told by Hanka Robotics has been a lie and she may not be who she thought she was. This sends her down a path to expose the misdeeds of Hanka.
There are a lot of problems with how the story unfolds, starting with Major’s determination to track down Kuze by subjecting herself to a “deep dive” of one of his hacked bots. We’re told this is a risky, dangerous procedure and it obviously backfires on her, but the question for the audience was why in the world is she so determined to do it? She has no personal attachment to the case (at this early point) and her risk made no sense for what was supposed to be a rational thinking robot/human hybrid. The film continues on that path with like decisions that have no basis or reasoning, yet lead characters down dangerous paths.
But lazy plot movement aside, the film’s biggest problem might be that it’s boring. We follow an amazing robot/human hybrid with incredible abilities and we spend 90% of the film watching her brood and pout. And when we do get an action scene, it’s edited at a lightning pace or, worse yet, Major is invisible. I believe the goal of the film was to blend the moral and ethical dilemma of humanity and machines with some great action, but director Rupert Sanders failed miserably on both accounts. The themes posed in the film are poorly developed and the action is boring and mundane.
Even if you didn’t bother with GHOST IN THE SHELL, you probably heard about the controversy surrounding the casting of Scarlet Johansson. I’ll leave the political analysis of the film’s whitewashing to social experts, but in terms of what it did to the film, it was a real problem. She’s out of place in a film set in Asia and with a mostly Asian supporting cast. If the filmmakers were dead set on Johansson carrying this film, they should have gone the extra mile and built the film around her by setting it in a modern day New York. As is, it felt like they took an Asian character and made it white, which is fuel for anyone upset with the lack of minority representation in film.
I know GHOST IN THE SHELL has its fans and for their sake, I hope they someday get the movie they deserve. But this is not it. Although it looks great at times, this is a poorly developed film with very little to offer.
4K ULTRA HD BLU-RAY REVIEW
Video: I always appreciate the darker films on 4K, so I was expecting to be impressed with GHOST IN THE SHELL. However, the film is CGI-heavy and in those scenes, any detail improvements are diminished. This isn’t a knock on the transfer, but more a knock on the film style. You can see this in the opening action scene as Major goes invisible as she’s shooting the bad guys. You can also see this in the wide shots of the city, which is shrouded in CGI. I put in the Blu-ray to do a comparison and the differences were minimal. Any improvements you see in the 4K are going to be minimal.
Audio: This features a quality Dolby Atmos soundtrack, but surprisingly, the film doesn’t utilize the surround channels very often. It’s efficient when it does, but it happens too infrequently.
This title was reviewed using a Samsung UBD-K8500 with a Sony XBR75X850C TV.
The 4K UHD does not contain any new features, but it does include a Blu-ray of the film, which includes the following special features:
Hard-Wired Humanity: Making Ghost in the Shell (30:05): This is a nice making-of featurette that covers almost everything you’d want to know about the live action film. There’s a surprising amount of information covered in 30 minutes and you get plenty of behind the scenes footage.
Section 9: Cyber Defenders (11:30): This expands on the Section 9 and then serves as a companion piece to the longer making-of featurette above.
Man & Machine: The Ghost Philosophy (10:35): The crew discuss how the film resonates with the current political state and what it means to the future of mankind.