Ghost in the Shell

OK. Two weeks ago was #stroke news. Last week was music. That must mean that this week, it’s… SCI-FI!!!

But let’s not be too predictable. I’m not going to bang on too much about last weekend’s Doctor Who. Although Smile was a good little episode. Thought-provoking. In fact, as I think about it again, I reckon that it might have been more satisfying that this week’s bigger, sexier, sci-fi outing.

I'm wearing a hoodie right now, Sexy
“But middle-aged Scottish men are sexier than Scarlett Johansson!” (FACT)

[For even more satisfaction, check out the Apoplexy Tiny Letter.]

Yep. Last night, Mrs Stroke Bloke and I went to see Ghost in the Shell. Pretty much spoiler-free. We’d seen the trailer, but that was it.

The whitewashing controversy regarding the movie had come to my attention somewhat, but it was gonna be Ghost in The Shell or Fast 8. I mean, I love DwayneTheRockJohnson, but Mrs Stroke Bloke’s attempts to catch us up on the continuity for that character-led epic had left me exhausted.

More importantly, I had picked up on the fact that Ghost would be picking up on issues of interest to the blog. Here’s a bit from that recent post about Ikutaro Kakehashi’s Roland TB-303 Bass Line:

While I’m thinking about the Clint Mansell-soundtracked Ghost in the Shell, this tweet by the brilliantly-monikered @siliconglen leads to an interesting piece on how the obsolescence of the mobile phone will change everything:

Developer of the Roland TB-303 Bass Line, Ikutaro Kakehashi

Ikutaro looks pretty good for dead, 87-year-old Japanese engineer, no? And Ghost in the Shell is beautiful, too. That seems to be where the film is earning most of its plaudits. In the Los Angeles Times, Justin Chang writes of the movie’s [ravishing] setting, a stunning pan-Asian metropolis that makes boldly inventive use of the Hong Kong skyline, its tightly stacked buildings tricked out with enormous holographic billboards. (The cinematography and production design, both staggering, are by Jess Hall and Jan Roelfs, respectively.)

And the movie addresses some of the issues that arise in that UK Business Insider article linked in the tweet above – the film expressly makes use of the “neural lace” a technology that Neuralink, a new company founded by Elon Musk, is developing with the goal or building computers into our brains.

Stroke Bloke picks his shell. Retro! Hipster!
But isn’t this movie about building our brains into computers?

I was reminded once again about the time the physical therapists in New York hooked me up to a Bioness drop-foot device that shot an electric current into my muscles to help me pick up my left toes. So, Ghost considers what it means to be human as we proceed into this new world. The punchy line is

We cling to memories as if they define us, but they don’t. What we do is what defines us.

To the extent that means the present moment is the important thing, that’s cool. But as the blog has often observed, we do define ourselves – and therefore the actions we take – by the stories we tell about ourselves.

I mean the scarf, primarily
“You are not defined by your past, but for your actions…” – Action Man: doomed to repeat the errors of the past

And in the end ––– SPOILER ALERT –––, Ghost *is* confused. If the protagonist is the ghost inside the shell, and not the casing and not the stories her creators have told her, then she is the anarchist who lived ideologically in a squat before she was rounded up by the government. And if she is Motoko Kusanagi, then why does she then choose to define herself by the actions she is ordered to take by her buddies in the the anti-terrorist bureau Section 9? Because it’s the easiest way to make more money for the franchise? Would Moto approve of that?

Dude. Can we change you back for the Baywatch movie?
“So then, they took me out of the hot 32-year-old woman’s body. But you should see the upgrade!”

Maybe the reviews are right, and the biggest problem with Ghost is

the Major asking the wrong sort of existential questions about herself – Evan Narcisse (io9)

as opposed to the “big, human, all-too-human questions” Manohla Dargis of The New York Times describes the original manga as asking.

Don't think it matters – it sounded pretty good to me, regardless.
“Do you think I need to make any changes to get my album of Tom Waits covers released?”

So, I guess I’m going to have to check that out. It turns out those awesome images in Ghost in the Shell (2017) were very directly inspired by the earlier movie, by the looks of this trailer. Kudos to the new movie for doing a bang-up job of bringing them to life.

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2 thoughts on “Ghost in the Shell

  1. Meh. I’ll define myself by my memories of watching the original Ghost in the Shell in a theater in Austin, long before Hollywood hacked the story. Besides, the Scarlett-Johansson-in-Asia theme has already been done.

    I presume Akira is next on the chopping block for Hollywood butchering? Or maybe they won’t be able to sell it to Middle America?

    1. Nice. I’m reminded again of watching Shallow Grave in a theatre in Austin, and wandering out into summer heat and wondering where the hell I was! We probably need to move on to ScarJo in Scotland. Oh. That’s been done, too.

      And Akira! That was a legend in its own running time at our local art-house around 1990. Man, can you imagine the attempt to turn that into something for the multiplex?! I’m dizzy, having Ian Wiki try to remind me of the plot! You won’t have been surprised to read that Warner Bros have been trying to adapt Akira since 2002! Or that one version of the script had “had the events taking place in a Japanese-owned Manhattan”!! Or that the latest director rumoured to be linked with the project was Justin Lin!!!

      Vin Diesel Fast and Furious:

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