Not A Lot Inside This ‘Shell’



In the near future, terrorists have figured out a way to control people’s minds, and cyborg solider Major (Scarlett Johansson) is enlisted to stop them. Along the way, she learns that before she was turned into a crime-fighting machine, she had a whole other life. We’re torn on this one. It looks OK, but mainly we’re distracted by the fact that it’s set in Japan — and it’s based on a popular manga series — yet seems to have very few Japanese characters. Ghost in the Shell opens in wide release March 31.

PAIGE: I am actually not familiar with the original Ghost in the Shell manga or anime, outside of knowing that it is widely regarded as a classic. But turning Japanese anime into extremely-not-Japanese movies is just a thing now.Death Note on Netflix is another example. On one hand, you can argue these are whole-bodied remakes and not “whitewashing” per say. On the other hand, these also are stories explicitly set in Japan which arguably need some of that sense of Japanese-ness to function. And like, minorities still exist as more than villains! Why was Scarlett dying her hair black the best possible option here? … There is no right or easy answer.

CHRISTINA: The fact that there seem to be no prominent Asian characters is frustrating. Like, all of the leads were white. In a movie that takes place in Japan. Right.

JAIMIE: And yet, as mind-boggling as it seems that Japanese people are portrayed as villains in their home country with a cast of leads that are all white, it really isn’t. But hey, that’s just how Hollywood does Hollywood. Would I like to live to see the day when Japanese people are playing Japanese people? Obviously. Am I holding my breath? Sadly, no.

CHRISTINA: This whole trailer just came across as meh to me. Nothing impressive that we haven’t seen in like 1,000 other action flicks. It doesn’t look terrible, just not that exciting. The mystery that is revealed at the end of the trailer — that they maybe killed her in order to make her into a cyborg — is mildly intriguing. But probably not enough to make me care enough to watch it.

PAIGE: Scarlett Johansson seems to like playing strange, not-human roles — I’m thinking of her in Under the Skin, which was weird and crazy — but I am not feeling her weird almost-nude bodysuit. It’s too much like almost nudity.

JAIMIE: While I do appreciate that Scarlett tries to make it a point, it seems, to take on a variety of different roles, I don’t know if I can get behind this one. I can’t say I care too much about all this android warfare. Can someone just tell me what happens in the end?

PAIGE: I enjoyed the imagery of her being an android but I feel that’s all it was: something that looks cool. The movie is not capitalizing on the idea of “questioning humanity when it intermingles with machine” so much as it is setting up for “corporations are so, so evil” — at least in the trailer. But I don’t exactly have high hopes for that being different in the finished product…