Logo for Ghost In The Shell on DStv

Scarlett Johansson, Takeshi Kitano, Juliette Binoche

In this sci fi adaptation of the manga graphic novel, most humans in mid-21st century Japan are augmented with cybernetic improvements to improve their vision, strength, and intelligence. Hanka Robotics, the world's leading augmentation developer, establishes a secret project to develop a mechanical body, or ‘shell’, that can integrate a human brain, rather than Artificial Intelligence.


Mira Killian, a young cyberterrorist attack survivor, is chosen as the test subject after her body is damaged beyond repair. Despite the objections of her designer, Dr. Ouelet, Hanka CEO Cutter decides to use Killian as a counter-terrorism operative to prove the new concept, calling her Major. Major is the first of her kind: a cyber-enhanced human, designed to be a perfect soldier with one purpose: stopping the world's most dangerous criminals as part of anti-terrorism bureau Section 9.

She’s grown up thinking that her brain had been taken from an immigrant who was drowned after a terrorist attack, and implanted into the hi-tech armour.


As terrorism reaches a new level with perpetrators able to hack into people's minds and control them, Major is uniquely qualified to stop it – but she’s haunted by echoes that point to a past she isn’t supposed to remember: the ghost in the shell. Ouelet dismisses them as ‘glitches’ but Killian is curious…


The original movie adaptation, a Japanese animated film released in 1995, has a cult following, including directors Lana and Lilly Wachowski, reportedly brought a copy along when they pitched The Matrix to their studio, saying “we want to do this, for real”. The manga has spawned a second animated film, TV series and several video games, but it’s never been rendered as a live-action film – until now. The original manga is given a superhero origin story twist, with more than passing nods to Metropolis, Robocop and Total Recall. As far as themes go, there’s a thread common to films and series like Ex Machina, Westworld and Black Mirror – like questions about the definition of humanity as AI creeps ever closer to everyday reality.


Unfortunately, much of the early publicity of the film was about Hollywood’s continued propensity for ‘whitewashing’ blockbuster films, having cast Johansson in a role clearly originally meant to have been played by an Asian – if not Japanese – actor. Producer Steven Paul defended the movie in an interview with Buzzfeed, saying: “I think everybody is going to end up being really happy with it. There are all sorts of people and nationalities in the world in Ghost in the Shell,” he said of what is admittedly a fairly diverse cast in all other areas. “I don’t think it was just a Japanese story. Ghost in the Shell was a very international story, and it wasn’t just focused on Japanese; it was supposed to be an entire world”.