Ghost in the Shell is, in my opinion, a genuinely pleasant surprise. This movie had a lot of baggage riding on it going in. Negating the valid criticism of Scarlett Johansson\'s casting (which I will discuss later), Hollywood obviously doesn\'t have a stellar track record with anime adaptations (Dragonball Evolution and Speed Racer being good, or rather terrible, examples of this). Ghost in the Shell had a lot to prove in terms of whether or not Western filmmakers could successfully bridge the gap between anime and big-budget, live-action blockbusters. Personally, I think this film succeeded with surprising grace. Much has been said about the visuals of this film, which are absolutely breathtaking, from the computer-generated imagery, to the sets and production design to the fantastic cinematography. However, I also think this movie succeeded in creating a very compelling story with a much more emotionally-engaging version of the Major at at its heart. A surprising amount of screentime in this film is dedicated to exploring the same cerebral themes as the original anime, and while the original anime still definitely outshines this adaptation in terms of how it tackles those themes, this film overall manages to stick the landing on these themes quite well. On the subject of Johansson\'s casting however, I have to agree with the critics. I won\'t knock her performance, because she absolutely delivers as the Major and nails her scenes on an emotional and physical level, but ultimately I think that given Hollywood\'s history of whitewashing, particularly of Asian characters, it would have avoided considerable pre and post-release controversy to cast an Asian or Asian-American actress as the Major. Rinko Kikuchi of Pacific Rim fame would be my first pick personally. Overall though I am pleasantly surprised by how well this film turned out. I can give it a solid 8/10 and would definitely recommend seeing it on its opening weekend, especially for fans of the original anime.
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