Ghost in the Shell (Blu-ray) (2017)

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Released 26-Jul-2017

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Sci-Fi Action Featurette-Hard Wired Humanity: Making Ghost in the Shell (30:05)
Featurette-Section 9: Cyber Defenders (11:29)
Featurette-Man & Machine: The Ghost Philosophy (10:36)
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2017
Running Time 106:56
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Rupert Sanders
Studio
Distributor

Paramount Home Entertainment
Starring Scarlett Johansson
Pilou Asbak
"Beat" Takeshi Kitano
Juliette Binoche
Michael Carmen Pitt
Peter Ferdinando
Danusia Samal
Lasarus Ratuere
Yutaka Izumihara
Tawanda Manyimo
Case Standard Blu-ray
RPI ? Music Lorne Balfe
Clint Mansell


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Atmos 7.1
French Dolby Digital 5.1
Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
Portuguese Dolby Digital 5.1
English Descriptive Audio Dolby Digital 5.1
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 1080p
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
English for the Hearing Impaired
French
Spanish
Portuguese
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

     In the future cybernetic technology has advanced, and many humans have artificial enhancements to various parts of their anatomy. But when Mira (Scarlett Johansson) is killed in a terrorist attack, her body destroyed and her parents killed, Hanka Robotics CEO Cutter (Peter Ferdinando) and chief scientist Dr Ouelet (Juliette Binoche) save her brain and place it into a totally synthetic body, creating in her the supreme weapon. One year later, Mira is a Major in Section 9, a government antiterrorist organisation headed by Aramaki (”Beat” Takeshi Kitano) where she works primarily with Batou (Pilou Asbak). Mira has no memory of her past life, although she keeps getting fragmentary images of what she calls “glitches” which she does not understand.

     When a geisha party is attacked by terrorists who kill a Hanka executive Mira and her team are called into action. Elsewhere, other Hanka executives are being killed; seeking clues Mira is connected to the brain of one the cyber geishas killed at the party and diving deep into the brain Mira encounters Kuze (Michael Carmen Pitt), who seems to be orchestrating everything. Mira tracks down Kuze in the real world, only to discover that she was not the first cyber / human experiment conducted by Hanka. As Mira searches for the truth about her past, and tries to come to terms with what she is, she discovers that everything she has been told is a lie. Can Mira discover the truth before those who do not want the truth to be revealed catch up with her?

     Ghost in the Shell initially appeared in 1989 in a manga by Masamune Shirow before becoming an industry in its own right with additional manga issues, an influential and award winning animated film in 1995, video games, a TV series Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex and a series of OVAs. It was probably invertible that a live action film would be made, although the fact that it was made by an American company and a British director in Rupert Sanders, only his second feature following Snow White and the Huntsman (2012), was unexpected.

     It is fair to say that this live action Ghost in the Shell was not received favourably by critics or fans. There was backlash following the casting of Scarlett Johansson as the lead, rather than an Asian actress, but I must say that Major Motoko Kusanagi in the anime is a cyborg and was not drawn as obviously Asian, and in any case Johansson did receive the approval of Mamoru Oshii, the director of the original Ghost in the Shell. In any case Johansson is a pleasure to watch; she is an excellent athlete and actor and does a great job in the role. The bigger issue for me is the decision of the filmmakers (or the studio) to sanitize the film to obtain a PG-13 rating in the US (it is rated M here) and to simplify the complex issues raised by the original film into a more simplistic action film for a wider audience.

     Responding to criticism of the film, a Paramount executive responded that their intention had been to honour the source material and to make a movie for a mass audience. Certainly there are iconic scenes in the film from both the original film and subsequent OVAs, including Major’s jump from a building roof, certain fight sequences and her riding a motorbike through traffic, although I personally am sad that the logicomas are absent; but one cannot have everything. However, the issues raised in the original around what it is to be human, memory, identity and the threat to humanity posed by cybernetics technology and robotics, while present, are not developed. Perhaps in pitching the film for a mass audience the filmmakers, in making things simple, had neglected the things which made the original manga and anime so compelling. As well, the need to get a PG-13 rating required both the action to be bloodless and the sanitising of the stylised nudity of Major’s skin coloured body suit (which was still apparently recoloured black in the Middle East).

     On the other hand Japanese screen icon ”Beat” Takeshi Kitano is as deadpan as ever, and gets the best line in the film about not sending rabbits to kill a fox, and Danish actor Pilou Asbak, as the only other member of Section 9 who gets anything substantial to do, is also good. As many have noted, the visuals of Ghost in the Shell are spectacular. The futuristic city landscape with holographic advertising, flyovers and Chinese signage, like Blade Runner but without the rain or pollution, is a wonder but other sequences inside the brain with disintegrating characters, on the bottom of the bay or in dark rooms with diffused lighting, are all stunning.

     Ghost in the Shell is best enjoyed as an entertaining action film with spectacular visuals, some The Matrix like fights (although that film still did it better), interesting characters and Scarlett Johansson and Takeshi Kitano in good form.

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Transfer Quality

Video

     Ghost in the Shell is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1, 1.85:1 being the original ratio, in 1080p using the MPEG-4 AVC code.

     This is a pristine print. Detail is very strong indeed, colours bright in the day time exteriors showing off the enhanced Hong Kong cityscapes, and suitably dull in the dark rooms and basements, with chains and dripping water. Blacks and shadow detail are excellent, skin tones fine and brightness and contrast consistent.

     I did not notice any artefacts or marks.

     Subtitles provided are English, English for the hearing impaired, French, Spanish and Portuguese. Small white English subtitles also automatically translate Kitano’s Japanese dialogue.

Video Ratings Summary
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Audio

     Audio choices are English Dolby Atmos (which defaults to Dolby TrueHD 7.1), French, Spanish, Portuguese and English descriptive audio, all Dolby Digital 5.1.

     I am not yet 7.1 compatible but even with 5.1 the audio is immersive. Dialogue can occasionally be on the soft side. Otherwise the audio is enveloping with engines, aircraft overhead, shots and impacts, destruction, the drip of water, clank of chains, voices and music. The subwoofer added depth to the music, impacts, and destruction. The electronic score by Lorne Balfe and Clint Mansell was good, occasionally hinting at Blade Runner.

     There are no lip synchronisation issues.

Audio Ratings Summary
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Extras

Hard Wired Humanity: Making Ghost in the Shell (30:05)

     Despite having sound bites from a myriad of individuals, including the director Rupert Sanders, eight cast including the principal cast members, three producers, Richard Taylor (Weta Workshop), two costume designers, the DP Jess Hall, the art director, two stunt coordinators and a fight coordinator, the editor, visual effects coordinator and weapons master, this is a decent and quite comprehensive “making of” using on-set, behind the scenes and green-screen footage, plus some before and after footage. Items covered include how the project was developed, the casting (the controversy over the casting of Johansson is not addressed directly, although the feature does have Mamoru Oshii, the director of the original Ghost in the Shell, giving his approval, filming in Wellington, N.Z., working with Weta Workshop, the costumes, holograms, weapons, stunts, the Yakusa bar and pole fight, filming in Hong Kong and the tank fight at the film’s climax.

Section 9: Cyber Defenders (11:29)

     A brief look at what Section 9 does, and the character and skills of team members; Major (Scarlett Johansson) and her relationship with Batou (Pilou Asbak), Aramaki (Takashi Kitano), Ladriya, who is a new team member, not in the previous incarnations of Section 9 (Danusia Samal), Togusa (Chin Han), Ishikawa (Lasarus Ratuere), Saito (Yutaka Izumihara) and Borma (Tawanda Manyimo). It is interesting to meet these characters as they don’t really have a lot individually to do in the film. Includes on set and film footage plus comments by each character, the director, weapons master, producer and the screenwriter Jaime Moss.

Man & Machine: The Ghost Philosophy (10:36)

     This is the question at the centre of the Ghost in the Shell universe but the director, various cast members, the editor, screenwriter and Richard Taylor are more interesting in questions about the integration of technology with humanity, and identity, rather than the ethics of advanced cybernetics and the threat it poses to humanity. The question is; can you reprogram a human brain, rather than should you!

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

     This Australian release of Ghost in the Shell is identical to the Region A US version right down to the FBI warning and US PG-13 rating screen. The only difference is that the US release is a combo with DVD and digital copy if that is of interest.

Summary

     Ghost in the Shell did not win over critics or fans, currently sitting at 45% (critics) and 52% (fans) on Rotten Tomatoes. I think that Scarlett Johansson is fine, but the “dumbing down” of the plot to try for a wider audience and the bloodless action to get a US PG-13 rating have not helped the film’s cause. However, not many live adaptions of anime, or video games for that matter, have been successful, so Ghost in the Shell joins a lengthy list. On the other hand, as an action film Ghost in the Shell is fun and the film’s visuals are truly breathtaking, a treat for the eyes, which alone is enough reason to watch the film.

     The video and audio are great. The extras are decent.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Ray Nyland (the bio is the thing)
Wednesday, December 27, 2017
Review Equipment
DVDSony BDP-S580, using HDMI output
DisplayLG 55inch HD LCD. This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderNAD T737. This audio decoder/receiver has not been calibrated.
AmplificationNAD T737
SpeakersStudio Acoustics 5.1

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