Not because she’s the most talented, or because she’s been
in the best films, but because she routinely takes on the kind of roles that
fall somewhere between human and inhuman. In an age where the standard definition of seems increasingly undermined by technology, Johansson has found
a way to embody and even allay our fears.
She’s been a sentient smartphone in Her, a clone in The Island, a lost alien in Under the Skin, a woman on smart drugs in Lucy, and a biotechnologically-enhanced supersoldier in the Avengers films. It makes sense then that Johansson was cast as the lead in Ghost
in the Shell, about a law enforcement agent who’s partly robotic.
Set in a futuristic Japanese city, The Major (Johansson)
works with her intelligence department, Section 9, to combat hackers and terrorists.
Section 9’s latest focus is a mysterious saboteur targeting the world’s chief
manufacturer of artificial intelligence robotics. During her investigations,
The Major comes to discover that this villain’s agenda intimately involves her,
and might force her to question what she knows about her identity.
It’s this question of identity that is central to the
original Ghost in the Shell film, a
1995 Japanese anime that made up for its poor pacing and overtly sexualised
heroine by giving its examination of human consciousness genuine depth and
mystery. The remake improves the plotting and tones down the leering (despite
Johansson spending a lot of time in a snug, nude-coloured body suit), but it
also provides easy answers to the original’s questions.
Like Her and even
the ridiculous Lucy, the original Ghost was willing to go down the
philosophical rabbit hole, imagining a post-human future. The 2017 version is
far more conservative, with its comforting confirmation that it’s possibly to
remain securely human even when your brain can be hacked like a computer.
Johansson is key to the way the film soothes its audience. Her
chilly little smile and level gaze has something cybernetic about it, but she’s
also a very earthy presence, a sensual Old Master painting come to life. No
matter how alien the characters she plays, she inevitably gives them a
reassuring humanity; Ghost’s The
Major is never as uncanny as Michael Fassbender in Prometheus or Alicia Vikander in Ex Machina.
Despite this, and the other ways in which it dilutes the
strange power of the original, Ghost in
the Shell still holds on to a few interesting ideas. But if you find it tiresome
that these ideas are so often acted out by pneumatically-breasted robo-women holding
handguns (see also Westworld), then
watch Charlie Kaufman’s animation Anomalisa
instead. Sometimes the best way
to question reality is through the mundanely real.
Read our guide to Ghost in the Shell here.
|What||Ghost in the Shell film review|
|Where||Various Locations | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Leicester Square (underground)|
31 Mar 17 – 31 May 17, Times Vary
|Price||£determined by cinema|
|Website||Click here for more details|