This highly anticipated american live-action version of a Anime classic reached the UK at the end of March, so I had to go check out the hype.
Having not seen the original version, I went in with open eyes, and yet it still managed to disappoint. We see Major (Johansson), a government agent who also happens to be a cyborg with a human brain, attempt to take down a notorious criminal, while also trying to piece together what she was before her ‘accident’.
Cliched dialogue, lack of depth and weak plot progression accompany a visually stunning film that feels like a series of episodes in Major’s ‘life’. I can only guess this happens because of how much source material they have to cover but it leads to a fairly surface level piece where I couldn’t really attach to any of the characters.
It does have its positives though: the cyber-Tokyo backdrop is great, the mix of practical and visual effects blend well (at least I think Batou’s eyes were prosthetic), the sets are beautiful and are characters themselves (see the garden at the end with Cutter and Aramaki). Takeshi Kitano and Juliette Binoche add some quality to the cast, stealing the few scenes they are in.
It doesn’t, however, make up for the lack of feeling this movie has: it tries to make you care, but it doesn’t give any one moment enough time to grow/no big reveal is delivered with enough emotion for you to care. It’s hard to tell if this is a issue with the Director (Sanders) or if they just got the wrong talent in. Also at times it does feel like they almost fetishize Johansson’s Major with lingering shots that don’t necessarily add tension or depth but are just trailer-fodder and for the [solely] visually entertained. And honestly Johansson doesn’t really deliver on the character in the other moments. It’s difficult to say if it was just being hampered by the dialogue or if she struggles to deliver when shes in full focus (Lucy – hint, hint) but there is nothing about her performance I can say that engaged me or pulled me into this story.
Overall this movie is a classic style-over-substance piece, you take nothing away from it and it continues to ask me to question if Scarlett Johansson is a leading actress or not.
Score: 2.2 out of 5
I leave you with one of the central fights of the film – overhyped, overplayed slo-mo and inevitably underwhelming.