Directed by Rupert Sanders
Written by Jamie Moss, William Wheeler, and Ehren Kruger.
This is a film that from its announcement stirred a fervent fan base. Many were excited to see Hollywood’s take on a beloved classic, but still ahead of its time anime film from 1995 which itself is based on a manga comic series written by Shirow Masamune. This remake took three screenplay writers. Three writers who overloaded this film with needless history over the sense of self themes the original dealt with better.
Here comes the spoilers.
This film that lacks a soul. Between the acting and story it is hard to pin down exactly where the breakdowns begin. The story takes place in the near future where humans are augmented by cyber technology. People can elevate their strength, mind, and other senses. Major, as played by Scarlet Johannsson, is the first of her kind where a full body ‘shell’ is made to house a human brain (ghost). She has been wiped of her past and memories and told she is a victim of terrorism. This drives the purpose for her to work for Section Nine which deals with counter terrorism cases.
Section Nine in this film is dealing with the assassinations of top scientists working for Hanka Corporation which created Major and other robotic projects for the world. Major is teamed with her partner Batou, played quite superbly by Pilou Asbaek. In his characters case I felt he actually showed more emotion when he has his eyes replaced by cybernetics for the second half of the film. Also Takeshi Kitano is a joy to see in this film and has a couple good scenes.
The CGI. While in some cases it is very well done, and sometimes evoke a quasi anime feel, it just doesn’t amaze as much as the 1995 anime film did. Perhaps it is just me, but I felt the animation from the 1995 film augmented the story with every frame and color evoking emotions for the characters and fully setting scenes. In this remake you do not get the broader sense of government corruption, but instead the writers decided to write in a mother for Major and go with a different ending to the story. Major, pun intended, fail.
Now how can we fix this movie wrong with writing? Focus the film more on Major’s sense of self and identity. The scene with the woman when Major asks her how her hand feels on her face is going in the right direction. Let her rediscover what the sense of being a human is and how her mind is slowly drawn to the robotic side. Get rid of every scene that stresses her need to consent to have logs or memories erased. I feel the writers were focusing on privacy and this was just a huge distractor from bigger and better themes to focus on. The antagonist, Kuze, which is the screenwriter’s take on the puppet master just tears down this film further. The ending should mirror exactly the 1995 film’s ending with her merging with the puppet master and both existing in the same shell. It was perfectly imperfect. Again Hollywood has to give us all the pretty and clean ending when Asian cinema doesn’t shy away form thought provoking endings or endings where there isn’t a perfect happy ending. Here it feels like a cheesy call for a sequel, and a sequel I hope they don’t get funding for.
In conclusion, if you want a film that is flashy and no real substance, watch this film. If you want a film that will amaze you, blow your mind, and make you question the relationship of humans and computers; see the 1995 Anime film.
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