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Review: Scarlett Johansson helps propel ‘Ghost in The Shell’ out of generic sci-fi cliché territory

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We watch some movies for the brilliance of the story; others are more for the aesthetic appeal of the film’s visual qualities. The new film “Ghost in the Shell” definitely falls into the latter category.

This film takes place in a future where humans have begun to slowly enhance themselves with cybernetic parts, blurring the line between human and robot. The use of these robotic organs can range from treating a diseased body part to even obtaining a robotic liver so you can drink as much alcohol as you wish without any consequences, as one character does in the film.

The film stars Scarlett Johansson as Major, the ultimate human/robot hybrid. She is essentially a human soul or “ghost” placed inside a synthetic frame or “shell.” You guessed it, a ghost in a shell.

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The movie is based on the Japanese manga series of the same name. Despite its Japanese origin, most of the actors in the movie are white.

Johansson leads the cast, which combines a mix of white and Asian actors that make it seem like the studio wanted to mainly feature white actors but still include enough Asian actors to avoid some of the backlash they would get by casting the white actors.

As a result, the film has become the latest movie to be accused of “whitewashing.”

via GIPHY

However, racist tendencies of Hollywood aside, everyone loves Scarlett Johansson. She gives a reliably good performance in the title role, and is something of a saving grace for this movie, which is something of a disaster in many other regards.

Whoever created the visual effects for the film deserves an award of some sort. The film takes place in a technologically advanced world that makes the movie pass along as a visual treat, full of aesthetic eye candy. The story is relatively bland and full of clichés, but at least the action sequences are top-notch.

Johansson seems to enjoy playing semi-human science fiction characters, because her performance here in “Ghost” certainly seems somewhat similar to 2014’s “Lucy.”

The dialogue is laughable throughout most of the movie, sometimes bordering on cringeworthy. Good thing we don’t watch these movies for the writing. The visual effects coordinator is the one who deserves a pat on the back for this movie, definitely not the screenwriter.

Still, Johansson shows up to save the day, both literally and in the sense of the film. Literally, because she plays some sort of robot human superhero, and she also becomes the film’s most interesting character by far. She appears as the only real character in the movie. Quite honestly, the rest of the actors here seem like nothing but set decorations for her.

Somehow, the film still finds a way to remain entertaining. Johansson eventually realizes the robotics company she has worked for is not what it seems, causing her to rebel and go on the run from the corrupt organization in an effort to save her own life.

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Does this plot sound familiar? It should. It is only the plot of basically every single science fiction movie since the dawn of time. It may be tiresome, but Johansson’s on-screen charm will keep viewers entertained and also help them forgive some of the plot clichés.

The cringeworthy dialogue and bland storytelling is almost balanced out with Johansson’s impressive performance and the highly appealing visuals of the film, creating something that is definitely not great, but not terrible either. This film is about as “decent” as a film can get.

via GIPHY

Do not rush out of your house to go see this movie right away, but it might be worth a look eventually, even if only to watch Scarlett Johansson on the screen for one hour and 46 minutes.

Grade: C


Follow Alec Kuehnle on Twitter


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