Ghost in the Shell Review

Posted April 6, 2017 by Aron Pohara in Movies

Directed by: Rupert Sanders

Starring: Scarlett Johansson, Pilou Asbaek, Takeshi (Beat) Kitano

Released: 03/31/2017

This is probably the closest representation of the source material (unless you count Speed Racer) that a live-action remake has gotten to, striking just the right amount of weird and familiar.

Ghost in the Shell is a manga by Masamune Shirow, which in 1995 was made into one of the most influential anime movies of its time. It still holds up now. It was also a very first anime I ever saw, so it has a special meaning for me.

What we have here is an adaption of the entire source material, and not the 1995 movie. There are elements from the movies and the TV series here. And for most part it all comes together.

Rupert Sanders handles the aesthetic of Shirow’s work expertly. It would have been easy for this world to look like a barren, random CGI city, but that’s not what we have. The city feels lived in, and it is filled by a lot of unique characters. He also gets a lot of out of the performances, especially Pilou Asbaek as Batou who is the emotional pillar of both the source material and this movie. Sanders previously directed Snow White and the Huntsman, and he brings that visual flair to this movie.

Now let’s talk about the actors…

To say that Scarlett Johansson as Major was a casting controversy would be an understatement; however, I did buy into her performance, especially with how she handles the character’s little details, like the way she walks and her facial quirks. The biggest thing with Major is that she has an emotionless face, with most of the emoting coming from her eyes in the source material. Scarlett portrays that perfectly. Both Oshii and Shirow have come out in defense of the casting as well. I personally agree with their reasoning – Major is an android and as is not bound by color or ethnicity.

Pilou Asbaek as Batou. It would have been hard to find better casting for this character. Pilou manages to bring the most out of Batou as a bedrock of emotional support for Major. He is always there for her when she needs him, and when everyone and everything is collapsing, he is there to help her get up. Asbaek brings that steady and stern friendliness that Batou had to this movie.

Takeshi (Beat) Kitano plays a director of Section 9 as Aramaki. He brings the same gravitas to this role as Viola Davis did in Suicide Squad. I cannot imagine anyone but him being this character. He is the father role for the entire department and will do what needs to be done to protect them.

The movie does include a dive sequence which was executed very beautifully and not over the top. This is a going constant, as the aesthetic serves this movie and not vice versa.

There is a somewhat big problem with pacing, however, as some pieces need to be fleshed out more. The transition from the second to the third act could have used an additional ten or so minutes to seem more natural.

Overall the movie is a very good aesthetic of Shirow’s work with a lot of going for it, minus some pacing issues and the soundtrack being a bit muted at times. Scarlett Johansson did a serviceable job as Major, and the white-washing fears should go away. There is a lot to like, and even though it’s far from perfect, it is the closest I have seen a Hollywood movie come to an anime source material.

If you are a fan of Ghost in the Shell, you won’t be disappointed as long as you don’t expect a direct adaptation.


Final Score

7.5 /10


  • Visual Aesthetic
  • Fight sequences
  • Johansson as Major
  • Asbaek as Batou


  • Pacing
  • Somewhat muted soundtrack
  • Some weird choices by the villains

About the Author

Aron Pohara