What to make of Ghost in the Shell (out now on4K Ultra HD Combo Pack, Blu-ray 3D Combo Pack, Blu-ray Combo Pack, DVD and On Demand)? Scarlett Johansson is excellent, with a performance that's every bit the equal of her turns in Lucy and as the Black Widow in the Marvel movies. The production design and special effects are spectacular, echoing Blade Runner in all the right ways.
The movie got tangled up in controversy long before it opened. Johansson was cast as one of the most iconic characters from Asian manga, one who'd been the subject of a beloved anime film in 1996. The producers really should've expected the blowback when they cast a white actress in the role and they must've seen at least some of it coming, because the film goes out of its way to establish that Scarlett's physical form is a vessel created by a military contractor for her character's (Asian) spirit.
That's not the issue here. Rupert Sanders directs everything in a plodding style that's no match for what Luc Besson did in Lucy or what David Leitch did with Atomic Blonde or what Chad Stahelski did with John Wick: Chapter 2 (not to mention Leitch and Stahelski's co-direction of the original John Wick). And don't forget Matthew Vaughn's Kingsman: The Secret Service. We're enjoying a great run of compelling action pictures directed with verve and imagination. Sanders gets all the support he could want from the actors and technical crew but he delivers something that's far less exciting than it should be.
And yet, Johansson is still worth watching as The Major, the movie is beautiful and Michael Pitt gets a chance to chew some scenery as the alleged bad guy. Pilou Asbæk (so outstanding in A War) continues his transition to English-language movies and Japanese action legend 'Beat' Takeshi Kitano turns up as leader of the Major's squad.
The 4K and Blu-ray discs come with 50 minutes of special features that get into gratifying detail about the stunning production design and outstanding special effects.