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Watch This Review

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Movie Review

Major is the first of her kind: a true blending of a human brain with a completely mechanical body. Not that she really knows anything other than that existence. She simply woke up and there she was, a new construct: a replaceable-parts robotic super soldier with no physical feelings or memories. A unit assigned to help the government's counterterrorism agency, Section 9.

They told her that she was once a young woman nearly killed by terrorists. Fortunately, the Hanka Corporation was in the midst of cyborg trials and they were able to insert her undamaged brain into its new robotic home. With her augmented human partner, Batou, and others on their Section 9 team, she's been busting the world's worst criminals ever since.

Lately, though, there's been a change. Major's home city and Hanka itself has been under attack from a cyber-terrorist with incredible skill. And if that wasn't enough, her own cyborg self has begun experiencing problems.

Ever since she's been working on finding this hacker they call Kuze, she's been experiencing flashes of what she can only categorize as "memory glitches." She's seeing objects and activities that aren't really there, but that she definitely recognizes. They appear to be pieces of a puzzle that her brain wants to try to assemble. They make her want to ask more probing questions … about herself.

It's incredibly troubling.

Worst still is the fact that no one seems to be willing to give her any help or answers about what might be happening. In fact, the only words of advice she's received have come from the very man who she's been pursuing. "Collaborate with Hanka robotics and be destroyed!" he tells her through several cryptic sources.

Could there be some kind of connection between her and this elusive character? Should she be trying to communicate with Kuze rather than hunting him down? Is it possible that the truth of her past might be more complicated and, perhaps, diabolical than she was told?

She has to find a source and rip out some answers, if necessary.

Fortunately, she's been built to do just that.

Positive Elements

The movie repeats several times that, "We cling to memories as if they define us, but they really don't. What we do defines us." And while that ethos is a bit squishy, it definitely helps Major. She has some big questions about the value of her humanity. And it's when applying that human side of herself that she makes the best choices. For instance, she purposely puts herself in the way of an explosion to shield her partner. And she comforts a woman who she thinks might be the mother of the girl she used to be.

In turn, her partner Batou puts himself in the line of fire to help Major. An employee of the Hanka Corp. gives up her life to help an endangered love one.

Spiritual Content

Human brains in robotic bodies are the "ghosts" in the shell that the movie's title references. Kuze talks of the possibility of cyborgs connecting their minds (ghosts) to a collective network and thereby evolving beyond humans. An African diplomat comments about the dangers of bionic tech "messing with the human soul."

Sexual Content

We see Major's body built from scratch, including robotic frame, feminine musculature and outer "skin." That robotic shell may be some kind of synthetic composite that's perfect for the cyborg class, but in reality it appears to be a very, very skintight covering over a shapely actress: There are some camera angles that leave very little to the imagination.

In a Yakusa nightclub, we see a number of women dressed in skimpy outfits and holographic dancers who reveal quite a bit of virtual skin. Major feels no physical sensation because of her robotic body, though she longs to feel once again. She hires a street walker at one point and caresses the woman's face and mouth, asking her to tell her what that touch feels like. A very feminine-looking individual uses a men's room urinal.

Violent Content

All the robotic and enhanced human abilities we see in this pic open the door to superhero levels of destruction. And while we're never splashed with truly gory visuals, the explosions, high-caliber projectiles and large vehicles involved can fill scenes with quite a bit of intense, duck-worthy action.

A heavily armored "spider tank" rips an old concrete-and-steel factory to shreds. It cripples a cyborg that's later shot in the forehead. A large garbage truck smashes into a car, sending it tumbling and crashing into a wall. Then several of its trapped passengers are shot, point blank.

A gunfight breaks out in a thug-filled nightclub, killing and wounding scores of patrons. An explosion sends a wounded man writhing to the floor. When we see him next there are scars around his forehead and his eyes have been replaced with small metal lenses. A woman has her enhanced eye plate ripped out of her face. There are a number of small gun battles in the city streets. People are shot and killed in a restaurant. A man has wires jammed into small receptacles on the back of his neck: We watch as his brain is wiped and his eyes turn white.

We see someone's exposed brain injected with a fluid. Someone is chained up and repeatedly tortured with an electric cattle prod. A man is lifted by his head by a large machine. A woman is suspended by the small receptacles on the back of her neck. A prisoner purposely hangs himself in his cell, the camera cutting away just before he snaps his own neck.

As for Major, we see her fight savagely and she's wounded a number of times. She has her forearm slashed open. We see her after a huge explosion has blown off parts of several automated limbs and left her stomach and chest ripped open. (A machine slowly puts her tech innards back together and coats her in synthetic skin.) We also see her exert so much effort that her internal mechanics literally tear out through her skin at one point. In this effort her arm is torn off.

Crude or Profane Language

One use of the s-word and "a--." A an exclamation of "my god!" Someone flips a middle finger.

Drug and Alcohol Content

Batou drinks beer at a club and, later, while relaxing on a boat. Major takes a liquid drug that she's been given to facilitate her brain's connection to its cybernetic shell. A Section 9 lab tech smokes.

Other Negative Elements


Ghost in a Shell started out as a very popular Japanese manga which was turned into a much-revered animated film in 1995. And that classic has since been called a cinematic inspiration by many an American director—including the Wachowski siblings of Matrix movies fame who adapted several of the movie's concepts. So translating that kind of anime sci-fi heft into something live-action surely wasn't taken lightly. And it shows.

Director Rupert Sanders' painstakingly rendered take on the tale is nothing if not aesthetically appealing. His vision of a futuristic Japan filled with flashing lights, dazzling colors and enormous holograms leaning out from every rooftop and building front is wow-worthy stuff. And the robotic CGI on screen is almost equally impressive.

Visual flash, however, isn't all you need for a good movie. And it's the character-driven storyline of things here that causes this particular cyborg cinematic to end up feeling a bit too mechanical at times. There are some light good-versus-evil, humanity-versus-tech statements, and even a nod or two to family, but all-in-all the film doesn't feel quite … human enough. At least to make one actually care about any of it.

Add in the obligatory destroy-the-world action movie pummeling and a whoooooole lot of movie shots of star Scarlett Johansson running around in, well, next to nothing, and you've got a film that could well overload a few parenting circuits.

Pro-social Content

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Summary Advisory

Plot Summary

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Episode Reviews



Readability Age Range



Scarlett Johansson as Major; Juliette Binoche as Dr. Ouelet; Pilou Asbæk as Batou; Takeshi Kitano as Aramaki; Michael Pitt as Kuze; Chin Han as Han


Rupert Sanders ( )


Paramount Pictures



Record Label



In Theaters

March 31, 2017

On Video

July 25, 2017

Year Published



Bob Hoose

Content Caution

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