Ghost In The Shell review: The future is...wow?
I left the screening with one big question - what is up with Chin Han's hair?
It's like a greasy mop landed on him from a great height.
That question was quickly followed by something a tad more pertinent. Why make this film? Why now?
A live-action Ghost In The Shell (or GITS as I'll call it from here) has been touted since the anime of the manga came out in 1995.
While this film is not the disaster that some have made it out to be, it does fail to clear some hurdles.
In the 22 years of build-up, everything revolutionary about the original has been covered by other films - leaving this, at times, looking like a dodgy cover-version.
And too often it fails to recognise how far behind it is.
The lingering shots of CGI imagery - especially the bird's eye view of the city with its giant hologram advertising - will get more yawns than wows.
The best use of CGI is where it is used without fanfare.
There's also the fact that current technology has caught up with "future" technology.
The entire population is hooked up to an information network? Gosh... who could conceive of such a thing?
And because GITS occupies a niche genre - sci-fi dystopia - it's hard to not compare it with what has come before.
Future city? Blade Runner definitively nailed it over 30 years ago.
CGI-infused action sequences? Thanks, but the Matrix did that almost 20 years ago.
Amazing life-like androids? Check out Bjork's late-90s video for All Is Full Of Love.
But then none of those had a HDB scene.
But where GITS comes good is not in the grand spectacle but in the small stuff.
If only Rupert Sanders had taken a more Michael Mann approach and kept everything low-key and urban - this film could have soared.
Taking the cyberpunk style to street level during daytime is different and here it is filmed in a non-flashy way. It's not lingered on and just happens in the background, adding to its allure.
It proves that when GITS remembers its an adaptation and not a facsimile, it feels fresh.
Once it stops trying to impress and turns fully into a police procedural cat-and-mouse game (albeit with sci-fi trimmings), it's a far more intriguing film.
I'd also have liked to see more of Chin Han. He seems to suit a world-weary cop well, even with the cheap suit and horrendous hair-do.
After Under The Skin and Lucy, Scarlett Johansson can do emotionally disconnected with her eyes closed (or glazed over).
She plays Major, the cyborg (the "shell") with a real brain (the "ghost"), finding out her human past may not be what it seems. They really labour explaining that metaphor early on, so much so they may as well draw a diagram to make sure everyone gets it.
The whitewashing element has already divided audiences, or in the case of some that I have spoken to, left them totally unaffected.
I can buy that cities are more cosmopolitan now and that in the future, the populace will be even more mixed. That said, a number of the cast beyond Johansson and Pilou Asbæk - who is the anime Batou come to life - is more Caucasian than expected.
As for the supporting cast, he real standout is Takeshi Kitano as Johansson's boss. He is an amazing presence who stoically - almost supernaturally - dominates every scene he is in.
Thankfully, despite being about meaty subjects such as the notion of self being a hackable commodity, those aspects are mentioned but not dwelled upon. Maybe the makers took a lesson from the Matrix sequels and dropped the philosophical debates. Few could pull it off and keep the audience interested.
You might hope that this will open the door to further anime adaptations and even with the whitewashing controversy, it seems Hollywood has not been scared off from the concept.
Jordan Peele, fresh from his hit debut Get Out has been tapped to adapt the granddaddy of anime hits, Akira.
Hopefully, he won't have anything as bad as Chin Han's hair in it.
MOVIE: Ghost In The Shell
STARRING: Scarlett Johansson, Pilou Asbæk, Takeshi Kitano, Juliette Binoche, Chin Han, Michael Pitt
DIRECTOR: Rupert Sanders
THE SKINNY: In the future, Major is the first of her kind: The survivor of a terrorist attack is turned into a cyber-enhanced soldier. But has she been lied to about her past?