Gabrielle’s review published on Letterboxd:
Proposing marriage, the god shall descend
The night clears away and the chimera bird will sing...!
Of course this was going to be my 1.000 followers review. I mean... It's obvious. It couldn't be any other.
Those of you who have been with me for some time now, you know what this means to me. I've been obsessing about this movie so hard since the first trailer dropped. Fiercely defending it, adamantly believing in it. Today was a really long day, and I spent most of it going over every detail so nothing would go wrong, specially today. When me and Vicentini got there, when it started, I was finally at ease.
What is it with me and Ghost in the Shell anyway? What is it with me and this specific adaptation of Ghost in the Shell? I've been trying to understand, and somewhere along the way, I may talk about that.
As I left the theater, I was stunned out of my body with many aspects of it, however what impressed me the most wasn't even how genuinely loyal to the source material's cyberpunk surface director Rupert Sanders crafted his aesthetics and atmosphere, but how much of Ghost in the Shell's melancholic essence the screenwriters managed to capture and were allowed to develop upon. I hardly call this an action movie. Make no mistake, when there's action, it's competent and unique - Sanders manipulates speed as if he was rather messing with gravity itself -, but it amazes me how much the studio was willing to go with a calm, melancholic and contemplative science fiction piece rather than an action-packed, full of comic relieves Marvel-like movie. The film's sense of calm is one of its most unique qualities, even its action sequences don't go John Wick level frenetic (which it easily could), Sanders prefers to frame them in patient shots, edit them in a lighter pace, so they never outgo the general tone here. It may have a little more action than I'm giving it credit for - but the thing is, the action is not what stuck with me. What stuck in my mind was the character work, Major's self-discovery, the questionings.
Scarlett Johansson as the Major was a bliss. She completely understood her character and made her hers, and her arc in the film not only confidently explored her very personally, but covered many layers of the film's themes, using the fact that she's white in the process. Many of you know that I've always defended Scarlett's casting and how I always thought that she fit the role perfectly, but after seeing how her arc played out, I have no idea how those who claim to understand Ghost in the Shell so much could possibly consider criticizing this casting choice. I can't go into details because reasons, but this only added a whole new layer to the essential questioning of identity in this work. The picture is so aware of the ridiculous accusations it would face for casting a white actress in this role, that it uses that very attention the controversy ended up drawing to it so it can direct a punch of criticism at actual problems of corporative cultural-washing. A master's move, no less.
That is a subtle subtext to Sanders' piece's themes, but it's constantly defending cultural traditionalism. The film depicts a globalized Japan, a vast variety of ethnicities are in display, along with many different accents. You can easily tell that this dystopia is the result of american intrusion - a point where the film uses its inevitable westernization of the source material to its own advantage. While everyone, mostly at least, speaks english, chief of Section 9 Daisuke Aramaki ("Beat" Takeshi Kitano) is the very symbol of standing against this oppressive alienation. Aramaki does not say a single word of english during the entire film, and not only that, both Beat Takeshi as an actor and Rupert Sanders as his director build the character as further away from the typical Japanese stereotype as possible. You won't see Kitano ludicrously shouting like an anime character, or staring with half-closed eyes and humming like the cliché Japanese wise old man. Aramaki is an original, carefully shaped icon of tradition here.
In a world so married to artificiality it's not even surprising that everyone can understand Aramaki's Japanese and vice-versa - anyone could have enhancements for simultaneous translating at this point -, a cyborg touches a woman's face. Whatever shell you're in, your ghost is what defines who you are, and your ghost manifests itself only through your actions. Maybe that's why I feel so attracted to this whole property. Every once in a while - a lot more so recently -, I find myself questioning my shell. Does the real me belong in it? Why do I look at the mirror and don't like what I see? Why do I have this urge to use anything to represent me but an actual picture of me? And why would a soul be put inside a shell it doesn't belong to? Whether it's me or anyone else, to question why you exist in the way you do is a complicated subject, and Ghost in the Shell manages to develop this speech in such an authentically universal way, it's astonishing.
I'm really not feeling like going over the most technical aspects. Know that the 3D is amazing and deeply immersive, the visual and special effects are gorgeous, the production design is absolutely outstanding - this is the most dedicated futuristic world-crafting I've ever seen since Blade Runner - and the score by Clint Mansell and Lorne Balfe is a beautifully synthesized collection of melodies as calm as the film itself, many times looking back to Kenji Kawai's work for the original film (which, of course, was not left out of this as well).
While it's not as nihilistic as Mamoru Oshii's iconic mark, Rupert Sanders' Ghost in the Shell is both a passionate love letter and an existentialist beauty of its own. A film far beyond simply "competent"; a stunning piece of art crafted with care, passion and most of all: respect. Indeed all I ever wanted, all I ever needed.
And thank you, my 1.000 followers, you are all very dear to me for the sole fact that you put up with me writing shit like this.