By Jonathan Decker (Family therapist, film critic)
WHAT'S GHOST IN THE SHELL ABOUT?
A super-agent with a human brain and a robotic body embarks on a quest to discover her identity. Rent or buy it here.
IS IT ANY GOOD? (GRADE: C+)
Much like its heroine, Ghost in the Shell looks phenomenal and kicks butt, but is too cold and detached to truly connect. Largely a wonder of design (even if a couple of times the futuristic cityscapes aren't quite believable, they always look fantastic) with a compelling premise, some genuine surprises, an excellent musical score, and some hard-hitting action, unfortunately it limps when it should soar dramatically. For a story about the human soul the whole affair seems rather soulless. It does little to foster empathy for its characters (Juliette Binoche is an exception) and rushes through its bolder ideas.
Originally a comics series that was adapted into a critically acclaimed 1995 anime film, this new adaptation keeps the Asian influences but offers a diverse cast. The lead has been recast with a white actress (Scarlett Johansson, in full action-hero mode), something the plot addresses in a way that may or may not satisfy audiences. Still, those looking for thrilling, visually-stunning escapism will find much to enjoy here.
IS IT OKAY FOR YOUR KIDS?
Ghost in the Shell is rated PG-13. It features one raised middle finger, a few moderate profanities, and female rear nudity as a new body is being created. We see a woman's back and a bit of the side of her chest, and she wears a skintight flesh-colored uniform in combat. There are brief glimpses of exotic dancers in the background, but they are clothed and the camera doesn't linger on them. One character smokes cigarettes, another drinks alcohol. There is plentiful action violence, with persons and humanoid robots shot at point blank range, persons' brains “hacked” into by cords, a person strangles himself, a woman is electrocuted, and there is some brutal hand-to-hand combat.
ANY WORTHWHILE MESSAGES?
There are people in real life who are “reprogrammed” to be weapons, but their humanity may be re-awakened. If you've done bad things, even if you thought you had good reasons, do what you can to make things right. Justice catches up to the corrupt.
Big ScarJo fan? You don't want to miss one of her earliest roles in the campy-fun creature feature Eight-Legged Freaks! Rent or buy here.
Jonathan Decker is the clinical director of Your Family Expert. He is a licensed marriage and family therapist, husband, and father of five. Jonathan earned a masters degree in family therapy from Auburn University as well as a bachelor's degree in clinical psychology from Brigham Young University. He is an actor, author, and television personality.