Scarlett Johansson performs in a scene from Ghost in the Shell.

BY RYAN MACKETT


RUPERT Sanders, the director of Snow White and the Huntsman, brings to life one of the most beloved anime features of all time with Ghost in the Shell (which in turn was based off of a manga of the same name). The filmmakers, in their infinite wisdom, felt that this big budget, Americanized version of the 1995 classic needed a boost in star power to help it appeal to American audiences. Enter Scarlett Johansson in one of the most inappropriate casting decisions in a while, continuing the tradition of Hollywood whitewashing.

The studio is in the business of making money, and they undoubtedly figured that by casting a recognizable (read: white) American film star in the title role that it would help ticket sales. Hollywood employed this same tactic recently with the casting of Matt Damon in The Great Wall, a tactic that failed miserably. And based on the early box office numbers so far, the same tactic is failing with Ghost in the Shell.

The story follows Major, a highly-advanced cybernetic robot with the brain of a human woman who is employed by Division 9 to help fight cyber terrorists in mid-21st century Japan. The title refers to her “ghost” (or human soul), while the “shell” is the machine in which she inhabits.

To be fair, ScarJo did great in the role, even though it should have gone to a Japanese actress. She was so good in the role, in fact, that I almost started to forgive the studio for the poor casting choice. Then a small reveal comes and we realize that in her previous life, Major was a young Japanese woman. I will let that sink in for a moment. Not only did the role of Major get seriously miscast, in the film they literally placed the “ghost” of a Japanese woman into a perfect, white Scarlett Johansson “shell”. Not that the people who were complaining about the whitewashing were unjustified in their protest, but the literal whitewashing of the character within the film itself solidifies the claims of whitewashing beyond any excuse, including the whole “trying to appeal to an American audience” claims.

That being said, the movie wasn’t bad. It’s been a while since I’ve seen the original, but it seems that this Hollywood version is a “lite” version of what is in actuality a very complex and compelling story.

The visuals were simply incredible though, and ScarJo did kick serious butt here. But when the credits rolled, and the original theme song began to play, I had shivers down my spine due to equal parts of nostalgia and a yearning for what could have been a brilliant film.

Not all is lost though. If anything, this movie gives audiences a female-led action flick, a genre typically dominated by males. I hope Marvel is paying close attention and finally gives ScarJo that solo Black Widow movie that she deserves.


Ryan Mackett is an artist and film enthusiast who resides in Thunder Bay. Email questions or comments to him at tbaymovieguy@gmail.com.

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