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Starring: Scarlett Johansson, Pilou Asbaek, Takeshi Kitano, Juliette Binoche, Michael Pitt, Chin Han, Peter Ferdinando
Director: Rupert Sanders
Rating: 12A UK
Length: 1 hour, 47 minutes
Whitewashing is an ugly term; it's one that has unfortunately hurt this movie in the box office. At the time of writing, the movie has an IMDB score of 6.9/10; now, I know what you will say, "That isn’t a bad score," but when it is based on a truly beloved Japanese animated movie and starring arguably the biggest actress on the planet, you would expect a better score; the problem is there are too many people who can’t understand the term artistic licence and get all bent out of shape when they see something that deviates from the source material.
Like I said, I love the original, but one gripe I have with it is there are way too many monologues. OK, yes, we get it: This movie is talking about what it means to be alive and how we as a people are embracing technology in a way that is all but killing off social interaction. This movie does cover the same type of questions but in a far less convoluted way. Or, I suppose, a better way of explaining it is that it’s less complex but still as complex, if you follow. I suppose they find a better way of getting across the same message without bogging the movie down with far too much rhetoric.
The Major (Johansson) is the first of her kind, a cybernetic body with a human mind inside it. She is an operative for section 9, a law enforcement group. She works alongside a team of other operatives. All but one has cybernetic enhancements; Togusa (Chin Han) is completely human, he even uses a six-shooter. This is a great nod to the original movie. The plot moves along quickly and doesn’t give much away; it’s adapted from the source material, so there are some differences. For example, the explanation as to why the Major is not Asian is really well done and well thought out.
As with her role as Black Widow, Johansson is not afraid to do the action sequences. I’m a big fan of actors that aren’t afraid of getting stuck in the stunt and action-work involved with making movies today. The action sequences are slick and well-crafted, with just a hint towards the original movie. Those of you who have seen the original animation and are hoping to see a fully nude Scarlett Johansson, sorry to disappoint, but they don’t go quite that far. That being said, though, her stealth suit is very tight and doesn’t leave much to the imagination.
Most people will go see this movie because of Scarlett Johansson, and, as much as I loved the source material, she is the main reason I wanted to see it as well; I have been accused of having a bias towards her, and I suppose I do; I can't help it. She makes incredible movies, and she is just fantastic all around. Anyway, enough of my fawning over her. Behind that stunning face, there is a fantastic actor, and she carries the weight of the movie on her shoulders perfectly. It is, after all, her performance that the whole movie hinges on, and I can’t think of many actresses today that could carry a movie like this; Milla Jovovich tried it with the Resident Evil movies, and, whilst I love them, they are “awfully good,” and Jovovich is not the same calibre of actress.
All the controversy around this movie is a shame because it is a good movie. Completely forgetting about the original movie, it’s a sci-fi movie that has a great cast, action, cinematography. If, like me, you look beyond just watching the movie, you will notice how the movie is shot and the score itself, cinematographer Jess Hall does a fantastic job of capturing the gritty underbelly of the Major's world, and, in some of the scenes where it is Johansson by herself, she captures that style of the cinematography from Lost in Translation (where my love of Scarlett Johansson began) wonderfully. The music is provided by Billy Rich and Neil Smith, and they do a great job of recreating the techno-punk style from the original movie but keep it fresh.
I would recommend this movie to any sci-fi fan and to the fans of the original who are boycotting it because of this whole whitewashing nonsense. I will say get your head out of your back passage; go, watch, and keep an open mind.