“Ghost in the Shell” is a transparent adaptation

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A remake of the 1997 animated film, “Ghost in the Shell” manages to capture the look of the original but not the substance.

The film follows the cyber-enhanced Major (Scarlett Johansson) as she must investigate a series of murders and hunt down a new type of enemy.

In this image released by Paramount Pictures, Scarlett Johansson, left, and Michael Pitt appear in a scene from, “Ghost in the Shell.” (Jasin Boland/Paramount Pictures and DreamWorks Pictures via AP)

As an adaptation, “Ghost” does a good job introducing the world of the film and making key aspects of the plot accessible to general audiences. Unfortunately, the film tries to blend two separate storylines from the original series, which keeps both from having enough time to fully develop. This also causes some pacing issues when the film switches from fast-paced action to exposition-ridden scenes.

The issues with the plot are further emphasized due to Johansson’s wooden performance. Johansson never quite clicks in her role, acting as robotic as possible despite the film being focused around her humanity. The supporting cast, however, puts forth surprisingly good performances despite not being given much to work with.

In this image released by Paramount Pictures, Scarlett Johansson appears in a scene from, “Ghost in the Shell.” (Jasin Boland/Paramount Pictures and DreamWorks Pictures via AP)

While her performance detracts, Johansson’s Major does have decent development and backstory. Bits of her character arc come across as confusing, but it’s never enough to drag the story down and works to make Major a more likable character. The rest of the cast, unfortunately, are given rather one-note roles and relegated to the background, where they continuously pop in and out of the film.

Story troubles aside, “Ghost” does an incredible job of making the world feel real. The mixture of CGI, makeup and prosthetics blend well to make everything more believable. This is further enhanced by the visually interesting sets, with each feeling unique thanks to different combinations of light and color.

In this image released by Paramount Pictures, Scarlett Johansson, left, and Chin Han appear in a scene from, “Ghost in the Shell.” (Paramount Pictures and DreamWorks Pictures via AP)

Overall, fans of the series may be able to overlook the film’s issues, but those not familiar with the source material won’t be won over. While it looks incredible visually, this adaptation of “Ghost in the Shell” lacks a lot of the heart and moral questions that made the series popular.

Verdict:

Despite its stunning visuals, story issues and a lacking performance by Johansson make “Ghost in the Shell” feel empty.

5.5/10