What I’ve Watched: Ghost in the Shell

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Ghost in the Shell (live action) came out in 2017 and just released on DVD/Blue-Ray.

Brief Summary:

For those not familiar with anime or anything that is awesome, then you probably don’t realize that this movie is based on a famous anime/manga series. In the near future, humans are routinely “upgraded” via cyber enhancements (arms, faces, bodies, mind, all that jazz). But the next step is creating a full-blown cyborg with a human mind. Enter Major. She is the first of her kind, and becomes a sort of badass counter-terrorism cop. Until she learns more and more about her past. And then all hell breaks loose because robots don’t know how to stop when on a warpath of human vengeance.

What works:

Boy howdy is this film gorgeous to look at! The story takes place in a metropolis and advertising has gone above and beyond our current means. Giant holograms show the newest products. It is simply beautiful to look at. This film really fills this world with gorgeous imagery that James Cameron would rival. This is really the star of the movie.

The theory of self is prevalent and I think it works. Contrary to many complaints this movie received prior to release (from Westernizing a classic Eastern series, whitewashing, etc.) I thought this movie maintained the base element of the GitS story. This is about a cyborg with a human brain, but no memory of her past. A good story begs the questions of why me? Who am I? And I think this movie did a good job showing this (though there could have been more additions to it to make it truly pop).

Scarlett Johansson was great. I don’t care about the whitewashing aspect (though I get it from some ends), she was the Major in my mind. Take out the fact she is white, and you have the perfect actress for this role. If you have seen the anime, then you know that Major is stoic, calm, kick-ass, holds-no bar and slightly humorous. This is what we have come to expect from ScarJo. I thought she perfectly captured the Major.

The rest of the cast was spot on. I loved the guy who played Batou and obviously the Chief was fantastic. Him even speaking Japanese was a good way of balancing this world. He was also a bad ass m’effer if you catch my meaning.

What doesn’t work:

While I loved the basic plot and all the action scenes, I felt like there were times the movie just plodded along. I think the director/writers wanted to walk the line between true cyberpunk and action that they should have just chosen one side. This is where the anime completely outshines the live-action movie. Pick one and go with it.

Along those same lines, I think the backstory was a bit meh. I think they should have weaved more in with the action and thus going with the more cyberpunk aspect of the two. Major is completely complex, as well as cybergentics in general that they didn’t do enough to highlight that.

Pre-conceived notions. What I mean is that this movie got so much criticism before it even got released. From the whitewashing conundrum to the fact this is based on a beloved anime/manga, too many people panned this movie. And I think that played a part in this movie not working. Sure the director, actors, anime creator all weighed in on it, but I think subconsciously that took away from what truly could have been amazing. Diehard fans will always bitch about the sanctity of their favorite works (myself included!) but I think the directors didn’t have the guts to use the source enough, thus going in a different direction which came out as an action movie with superhero-like tropes. It was always going to be tricky to appease the fans, but going for the masses was a misstep here and all the bad criticism before the movie even started filming had to have had some sway on the movie as a whole and I certainly felt it while watching it.

Rating:

3.5 out of 5

I truly enjoyed this movie. I really did. Though I wish it had the sense to go more closely to the source material because that is so rich in itself. The visuals are wow and I liked the actors chosen. Sure the dialogue was a bit blah, but all in all, I think this movie was good, not great, but good.

What I’ve Watched: Wonder Woman

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Wonder Woman by Patty Jenkins & Zack Synder. My first movie review for this site will be of the DC Comics Universe film.

Brief Summary:

Introduced into the movieverse in Batman V Superman, Wonder Woman gets her own spin-off/origin story. With the current craze of superhero movies, this was bound to happen. Picking up from a thread in the BvS movie, Diana Prince in present day receives a gift from Bruce Wayne (aka Batman) in the form of an original photograph of her and some unknown men in WWI attire. From there, the viewer is brought back into Diana’s memories as a child living among her Amazon family (yes those mythical Amazon women of great strength and ardor!) Diana’s mother doesn’t want her to train to be a warrior, but her aunt begins to train her in secret. The reason is that the Amazons are the only ones who can defeat the second-coming of Ares, the God of War. Montage happens and it is then we are introduced to Steve, an American spy, who magically comes into the island of the Amazons. Followed by Germans, Diana and the Amazons are pulled into the world against their wishes. Diana leaves with Steve with the idea that she is meant to fight Ares and stop the great war. Normal superhero movie stuff happens and people die, the hero has moments of disillusion, but eventually beats the bad guy.

What works:

Who doesn’t want to see a kick-ass Amazon on the big screen??? I mean seriously, who wouldn’t want that? The mythos of the Amazons are a font waiting to be mined. I studied Archaeology and the Amazons are a gift that should have seen more screen time in movie history.

Diana’s Wonder Woman is such a nuanced character that Gal Gadot was perfection playing her. There is the level of bad-ass and nurturer within Gadot’s performance that is the essence of Diana. She will fight for what is right, but also doesn’t want to fight just to fight. But as all heroes must overcome, Diana had to justify her actions to herself, whether her belief was right or wrong. Gal Gadot stole the show in that regard.

Unlike most superhero movies, this movie had a relatively light tone, even against the backdrop of WWI. The rapport between Gal Gadot and Chris Pine made the characters feel real and life-like like no other superhero movie since The Dark Knight. The stakes were high, but they never felt like it was world-breaking, only high for the main characters, which was a breath of fresh air in the DCU or MCU. I enjoyed the smaller personal stakes vs the world stakes. Yes it was there with Ares, but it wasn’t the sole focus of the film.

I enjoyed the way Diana views war in general. She is a warrior, but she doesn’t want to fight for the sake of fighting, she wants peace and fights because she has to. I thought it was a good metaphor for WWI in general. People were drawn into that war only because they had to (and I’m not just speaking toward America here). The world had shifted at that time and a great calamity had come to the world, but many fought because they had to. I liked how the movie paralleled that motif on a personal level.

The casting was spot-on and I thought the movie worked well with the dialogue, the practicality of a superhero/goddess in the midst of early 20th century Europe, the pacing, the plot overall and the climax.

What doesn’t work:

Too much slow motion! I can’t stress enough how this took me out of the film. Way too much of the slow motion in the fights from the very first moment. I don’t like that type of visual story-telling. I can deal with it in bits, but this was way too much.

Also, way too much of Diana’s hair blowing in the wind during the slow motion. It was like a music video of a pop singer.

I understand that Diana’s whole thing is love conquers all, but I felt it was too rushed and a bit heavy-handed with the addition of her and Steve having sex. I thought the whole scene of them dancing was amazing and they could have shared a kiss then and there. I didn’t need the next scene. It just didn’t fit for me in the scheme of things.

Was it me or did Ares look like he stepped out of a Skyrim commerical??

Rating:

4.5 out of 5.

Definitely the best movie of the DCU by far. I think the direction of the character is amazing and I can’t wait to see what comes next for Diana’s Wonder Woman.