Hollywood@Home: Ghost in the Shell (2017)

My name is Scarlet Johansson. I’m not Asian, mind you. But, I play one in “Ghost in the Machine.”

I’m not sure “Ghost in the Shell” ever had a ghost of a chance. The Hollywood version is too much like a blending of “Blade Runner” and “Robocop.” The only thing that could have saved this big-budget action film is keeping it closer to the source material, the Japanese manga. Instead, you have Hollywood, once again, saying Asian actors can’t be trusted to carry a film. And, that really sucks.

If you’ve never seen “Blade Runner” or “Robocop,” then you may think “Ghost in the Machine” (as presented) is highly original. It’s not. The story and the production design bring it down.

Yes, it’s hard to get past the visuals, folks. The decayed futuristic urban setting in “Ghost” is just a more congested version of Ridley Scott’s  landmark film. And, the heavy visuals in “Ghost” are distracting and unattractive. The ugly 100-foot tall holograms pull your attention away from the story, and it’s not even clear what purpose they serve. I suppose it’s some kind of advertising. “Blade Runner’s” futuristic sets were more focused and his robots were more interesting than the ones portrayed by Scarlett Johansson and Michael Pitt.

The “Robocop” angle is hard to get around as well. It’s clear that Major (Johansson) is very similar to “Robocop’s” Alex Murphy, the Detroit police-officer-turned robot. Each are human-infused cyborgs policing cities suffering from futuristic urban decay. There’s even a sequence late in “Ghost in the Machine” where one of the bad guys remote-pilots a “spider tank,” using it against Major. That’s a scene right out of “Robocop.” There are just too many similarities between better sci-fi flicks and this “average” one.

Finally, there’s the insidious plot to turn Japanese 20-somethings into Anglo-North American actors. The studio suits argue that a big American star was needed, and they couldn’t depend on an Asian actor to carry the show. What a load of horse manure. Hollywood, if you don’t have an Asian movie star handy, then make one. Give a talented man or woman a chance to become the next Tom Cruise or Sigourney Weaver. Hire Asian actors to play Asian roles. Anything less is phony. Grade: C

Scarlett Johansson is missing a few bits & pieces in “Ghost in the Shell.”