Ghost in a Shell
“For clarity sake, ‘Ghost’ is the term used for the stored memories, real and manufactured, that are placed in cyborg machinery to make them more human. ‘Shell’ is the body (in which) the machinery is housed. (John R. Dilworth.)
The above quote is pertinent to both film interpretations of the manga series by Masamune Shirow. Mamoru Oshii’s Ghost in the Shell (1995) is a manga masterpiece. Rupert Sanders’ 2017 film Ghost in a Shell, controversially starring the pneumatic Scarlett Johansson, is a more ‘Marvel-esque’ creation and will appeal to and reach a wider audience whose cultural appreciation is embedded in Western sensibilities.
Both versions of Ghost in a Shell are overtly sexy, highly stylised and capture the obvious ethical dilemmas involved when we repair and enhance human beings with high-tech parts. Don’t doubt that the original animation of Ghost in a Shell is sexy. I’ve put a comparison of frames below so that you can see the similarities.
As both movies are set in the future, human augmentation goes way beyond hip implants or the already lifesaving and/or cosmetic bio-technical breakthroughs some members of our community already use. The human enhancements in our future movie-scape world involve the presently still Sci-Fi ability to download, say, perfect French fluency; or a parent’s decision to give their child ‘every advantage’. Of course, these abilities and advantages are products that are being spruiked in the highly competitive market place. You can imagine that the array of enhancements for sale is astonishing and that black-market possibilities are even more extraordinary. In both movies, the brain of our beautiful heroine (‘Major’, played in Sanders’ version by Scarlet Johansson) has been implanted in an artificial ‘shell’. Major’s original memories have been erased and artificial ones have been implanted in her memory bank. Is Major robot or a human? What constitutes her formative history? Both Major and the audience are left to ponder these questions.
From here on my take on the 1995 original is easily rewritten to apply to this newer version. Though the philosophical ponderings in Oshii’s Ghost in the Shell (1995) run deeper, both movies delve deeper than most typical Marvel comics. Likewise, though the animated stylisation of Oshii’s film originates in a master studio ─ a brilliant mix of 2 and 3D animation plus free-hand, encased in Japanese traditionalism ─ the scene-scapes in Saunders’ movie are equally, but differently beautiful.
If you go see Saunders’ Ghost in a Shell – in 3D as did I – you will see giant holograms over sparkling towers; ceremonial dinners with geisha robots who are also lethal security weapons; the hacking of human brains for critical information no longer stored externally; robots begging for their lives and humans who are unsure about who and what they actually are?
Lots to ponder and enjoy. Eye candy for days.