Starring: Scarlet Johannson, Pilou Asbaek, Takeshi Kitano, Juliette Binoche
Director: Rupert Sanders
I’m going to have to be a bit unpopular and say that I actually enjoyed this film.
I remember watching the anime years ago, but I don’t remember that much about it, but that I liked it. It was cool and it also made me feel quite sad, and that’s what stayed with me about it. I thought that a live action version could honestly go either way, be wonderful or a complete mess, but it’s actually quite a lovely film.
It’s the story of Major (Johannson) who was almost killed during a terrorist attack, and whose brain and “ghost” were able to be saved and transferred into a machine android body. She is, basically, a weaponised human in a world where people look down on robots as being mere machines. She has confused feelings about herself, then, because she’s more than a robot, as she has thoughts and feelings, her own personality, but she is sometimes considered less than human by the people around her.
She has a friend in Batou (Asbaek) who she works on assignments with, stopping lethal criminals, and Dr Ouelet (Binoche) who is a doctor who helped create her and rescue her mind from her shattered body. She’s also part of a well oiled team. But something is wrong. In the city, a powerful man is threatening civilisation and Major starts to see glitches in her memory. There is something that she’s not being told, and soon she doesn’t know where to turn and what to believe.
It’s a cool premise for a futuristic film, and Johansson works well as an ice maiden, a woman who has feelings but is also highly disciplined. I get that she’s not Asian, and that the character is apparently meant to be, but actually, I think that she looks a lot like the anime character she’s portraying, interestingly. I think the characters in this film are all pretty interesting, from the costumes to the design and personality, and I liked how diverse they all are. I also liked how natural they felt with each other, there’s no woodenness in this film, and you can feel the warmth between the people that care about each other.
But what I really loved about this film was the design. It’s a beautifully made film. There are some incredible shots here, of course. But the live action creation of a world that was originally a drawn image is beautifully realised. For me, it was a pleasure just to watch the images, to let the ideas wash over me, and to think about what it would be like to live in that city, in that future. I loved the beautiful and terrifying geisha robots, which you see a lot of in the trailer. I loved the costume design and the action sequences. It’s just a beautiful film.
The criticism that’s leveled at this film is that it lacks substance, that it’s all style. Is this true? I’m inclined to mostly disagree. It’s a spectacle film. It’s meant to be shiny and exciting. I get that it comes from a well known and established story that people love, but in that sense it’s a lot like comic book movies right now. But when you look at a lot of comic book movies, they’re all spectacle and lack heart. And sometimes a decent plot too. Something like Doctor Strange, for example, has a lot going on visually, has a lot of ideas, but on the whole is pretty bland really. This film is much more beautiful, and I think a bit more well developed when it comes to character and plot.
In essence, it’s a blockbuster, but there’s something about it that feels different to me, and I liked it. I liked how it looked and felt, and I liked the characters. I liked the design and feel of the shots and the creativity of the action sequences. This is not something that I can say about a lot of action movies out there at the moment, so … I like this movie. It gets a thumbs up from me, even though it’s not perfect.
See It If: you like beautiful films, with interesting design and world building, especially ones about dystopian futures. It’s a flawed film, but it’s also quite a creation.