Saw a screening of the Ghost in the Shell remake last night. Compiling/expanding my reaction tweets into a post:
Welp. I kept an open mind. Watched it as its own thing, and it more or less is. Too bad its own thing is kinda meh.
I mean, there was clearly a lot of love in the design work at least, which was neat to see. Some cool imagery, especially during the deep dive sequence. The supporting cast was mostly enjoyable too! It's always good to see Beat Takeshi, there was some good emotion from Juliette Binoche, and I even kinda liked the guy they got to play Batou.
But man, just the plot they went with is the most bland, predictable stuff, both themes-wise and villain-wise. Plus it felt like there was zero creativity in the camera work and blocking a lot of the time. Flat angles, uninteresting frame compositions, rushing past things it feels like the eye should be able to linger on -- all stuff that made me feel like I was watching one of the more generic Netflix originals at several points. Most of the more creative shots were either lifted from the Oshii film or were already shown off extensively in the trailer. I almost kind of wondered if the point was to make this amazingly designed cyberpunk world feel as boring and unremarkable as the real world, but nope, mostly the flatness of everything seemed more like a product of workman-like filmmaking than considered artistic choices.
Also, there are a few parts where it's pretty apparent that either something got cut or a plot point/scene was compressed in rewrites maybe. That lesbian scene in the trailer? Does feel like it might be leading to an interesting character moment for the Major. At the very least it was the start of a quiet, intimate moment between these two characters exploring differences in their humanity. But the scene cuts off super abruptly before it can actually do that. Really felt like there was supposed to be more after the cut. A later plot point leads Major to investigate her past, and the way she gets exposition in that scene is almost laughably convenient. So that too might have been a case of compressing some details of the scene for time too, either at the script level or elsewhere.
Oh! Also: Michael Pitt's character... I think they were going for a voice that sounded like a text-to-speech synthesizer for him, but it also sounds kiiiiinda like he's doing a Japanese accent which... Yeah that's as uncomfortable coming out of a white actor's mouth as it sounds. Related: I'm not even gonna touch the ScarJo whitewashing stuff at this point. It's still fairly uncomfortable as expected. Lots has been said on this by people all over the internet and a lot of it is still justified. I will say at least, though, that the presence of the more diverse supporting cast did help that feeling a little. Again, Takeshi Kitano has screen presence for days.
Lastly, I will also say: there were a couple fan pandering moments that did get me. One is:
There is a giant Tachikoma, though it isn't called that. It also doesn't talk, but it does have a kinda cool industrial-looking redesign.
The other was the inclusion of a thing I'm sure made Oshii happy. If you know about things Oshii likes, you probably can guess what it is.
But yeah. Overall not unwatchable. Just also not very special. Very paint-by-numbers sci-fi thriller w/ a side of uncomfortable race issues.
On that note, Lindsay Ellis put out a really good video essay on this topic the other day!