Ghost in the Shell [IMAX/3D]
We really do live in a time where we have so many choices in how we choose to consume entertainment and ideas. Unfortunately for Ghost in the Shell, what it chose to explore had already been done once, when the idea was still new and fresh, by the original anime and manga, and more recently and more superbly (and in depth) by TV's Westworld, Humans and even Dollhouse.
Therefore, where it could - and does - succeed was in the technological (and monetary) front. However, there was only so much that souped up CGI can do to entertain and distract from the weak and uninspired plot. The screenplay was by Jamie Moss, William Wheeler and Ehren Kruger and it spent too much time building the world and neglecting the characters, such that when it finally got to the characters, the audience already felt disconnected. But even then, they could never really fleshed out the complexities and the morality of the tech, nor the complexities and moralities of their lead character.
Save for a couple of moments of beautiful visuals and stunt choreography, director Rupert Sanders told a boring and predictable story - interspersed with beautiful shots - that tried to explore the deeper meaning of life, free will, identity and self but only barely scratched the surface. Other than a great prologue and opening sequence, there barely were any other set pieces that lived up to that standard. In that regard, it was such a disappointment where with the budget afforded, Sanders' vision could not even compare with HBO's Westworld or the Alex Garland indie-sci fi Ex Machina.
If you ain't got substance, at least have some style: see any-period Michael Bay or late-period Wachowskis. Sadly, neither was present here.
Scarlet Johansson must have felt the pressure of not only carrying the show but being accused of participating in the oft-quoted whitewashing, because she distinctively felt distanced from her character. That could have been an active choice on her part, and Sanders, as part of character development, but the alienation that Major felt was often not represented by Johansson.
And to be honest, her character being white does make sense in the context of the film, as her creators are white and she is a reflection of the underlying white supremacy. Now, that could have been the story.
Furthermore, if anything, what we should be more offended about is trying to pass Hong Kong off as Japan.
Damn it Hollywood, not all Asians (and asian cities) are alike!
As for the supporting cast, Juliette Binoche was so wasted. Pilou Asbaek was great in the role as Batou, but he and Johansson had no chemistry (as platonic partners). And poor Chin Han spots a ridiculous mullet. But at least we had "Beat" Takeshi Kitano to lend some gravitas.
Music was by Clint Mansell and Lorne Balfe, and it was rather distinctive that the score had two voices. The opening credits was great but the music through the film was often distracting.
This could have been a great TV series. The concept lends itself to be told in an anthology series. With the length afforded by TV and the prestige that now comes with it, so much better stories based on the franchise can be told.
IMAX and 3D were not necessary at all.