Movie review

Movie review: 'Ghost in the Shell'

Liva action adaptation coulda, shoulda been better

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It’s sad to think people in the big-budget film industry still don’t understand animé. It’s like they look at the gorgeous and painstaking artwork that goes into creating these epic works of cinematic wonder and assume it’s an attempt to replicate what a camera, sets and costumes can do – or that animé is somehow inferior because it’s virtually handmade.

They look at this visual interpretation of pure imagination and figure, “Hey, let’s see if we can make it real, with lots of slo-mo action and a sexy movie star like Scarlett Johansson in the lead.”

“Ghost in the Shell” started out as a highly acclaimed Japanese manga (comic book) that became a hugely popular Japanese animé (animated film) and is now a highly Westernized live-action motion picture directed by British filmmaker Rupert Sanders (“Snow White and The Huntsman”). In many ways, the saga of Major Motoko Kusanagi, a futuristic cyber-enhanced warrior, was going along nicely until American studio suits decided to stir the pot.

I’m not necessarily a purist because I like to watch films that come from different origins and try to judge them as individual works. Akira Kurosawa’s “The Seven Samurai,” for instance, was turned into the epic American Western “The Magnificent Seven” (at least the 1960 version). Kurosawa’s “The Hidden Fortress” wound up as a fairly decent little space opera, “Star Wars” (1977). However, those were live-action movies, as opposed to something created to exist as hand-drawn animation, with some digital enhancement.

With “Ghost in the Shell,” even if you never saw the original, there clearly are tweaks made for audiences in the Western Hemisphere to better understand what’s going on. Where Asian audiences are perfectly fine withartistic ambiguities and plots that leave openings for one’s imagination to fill in, here, we apparently require linear, explicit storytelling that leaves nothing to chance. As a result, “Ghost in the Shell” appears to be merely a story about a young woman whose brain has been implanted into a cyborg body searching for a sense of humanity, fulfilling a yearning to find out the origin of her “ghost.”

In the film, Major (Johansson) has been resurrected from a deadly accident and is now a warrior who works for a law enforcement agency, led by Aramaki (“Beat” Takeshi Kitano) ferreting out bad hombres threatening the safety of the Japanese population. At this point, Major believes she is the only one of her kind, a human brain in a high-tech body, but as the story progresses, we find she isn’t the only one. Aiding her is the cyber-enhanced Batou (Pilou Asbaek), who uses his strength and new cyber eyes to help track down the corporate terrorists at large.

The film is set in an overpopulated world that is highly electronic, mechanical and connected to the web. Virtually no one is pure human anymore. This means, government is corporate and corporations govern the masses, making secrets and deals the way of life. It is bleak and disheartening, literally, but within the context of manga and animé, endlessly fascinating because of the possibilities for design and artistry.

This film may find an audience somewhere, but more likely it will end up in the same cut-out bin with “Green Lantern.”

“Ghost in the Shell” is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence, suggestive content and some disturbing images.

It is being screened daily at Mitchell Storyteller 7 Theatres, 110 Old Talpa Cañón Road. For show times, tickets and additional information, call (575) 751-4245 or visit storyteller7.com.

Also showing in Taos

The Boss Baby

MPAA rating: PG for some mild rude humor

Mitchell Storyteller 7

A suit-wearing, briefcase-carrying baby pairs up with his 7-year-old brother to stop the dastardly plot of the CEO of Puppy Co. Director is Tom McGrath. Based on the book by Marla Frazee, this film features the voices of Alec Baldwin, Steve Buscemi, Jimmy Kimmel, Lisa Kudrow and Tobey Maguire. DreamWorks Animation Studios digitally animated this film, which will be screened daily locally.

Mitchell Storyteller 7 Theatres, 110 Old Talpa Cañón Road. For show times, tickets and additional information, call (575) 751-4245 or visit storyteller7.com.

The Salesman

MPAA rating: PG-13 for mature thematic elements and a brief bloody image

Movies at the TCA

Forced to leave their collapsing house, Ranaa and Emad (Taraneh Alidoosti and Shahab Hosseini), an Iranian couple who happen to be performers rehearsing for Arthur Miller’s “Death of a Salesman,” rent a new apartment from one of their fellow performers. Unaware of the fact that the previous tenant had been a woman of ill repute having many clients, they settle down. However, in a nasty turn of events, one of the clients pays a visit to the apartment one night while Ranaa is alone at home taking a bath and the aftermath turns the peaceful life of the couple upside down.

This film will be screened at 2 p.m. Sunday (April 9) and at 7 p.m. Monday through Wednesday (April 10-12).

Movies at the TCA film series, Taos Community Auditorium, 145 Paseo del Pueblo Norte. For tickets and additional information, call the Taos Center for the Arts at (575) 758-2052 or visit tcataos.org.

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