'Ghost in the Shell' is visually stunning but needs more soul

Box Office: Can 'Boss Baby,' 'Ghost in the Shell' Top 'Beauty and the Beast'?

She's viewed as the ideal weapon, but her mission to locate Kuze (Michael Pitt), a cyber-terrorist capable of hacking into human minds, leads to some revelations that will have Major questioning her loyalties. Her body is all state-of-the-art robot, but her living brain had been transplanted from a real human - a orphan refugee whose body had been severely injured. The new movie gives the lead character a backstory, revealing that Motoko, along with a handful of other anti-tech Japanese runaways, was abducted by Hanka Robotics and subjected to experimentation. She next headlines Ghost in the Shell, based on the Japanese manga property, out March 31. Unfortunately, that just isn't the case with this version of Ghost in the Shell. The stories-tall holographic women and adverts hover over the film's action like ghosts of sci-fi films past. Comparisons to Blade Runner's immersive, dirty future are a compliment, and some of this movie's best scenes are simple world-building when Major and Batou are walking the city streets, catching up with vendors and feeding street dogs. Scarlett Johansson, star of The Avengers, Her, and Under The Skin, is back in this trailer for her new film. Brought up on a diet of films he was too young to be watching by his brothers, all things 80s teens thanks to his sisters and the classics by his folks he's turned into a well-rounded (maybe a little too round) film lover. I confess that I did wonder why they cast a Caucasian actress in a role with a Japanese name set in a Japanese metropolis.

Scarlett Johansson plays the Major, a human-robot hybrid who works as a counter-cyberterrorist officer. Diversity is important in Hollywood, and I would never want to feel like I was playing a character that was offensive. Major's two closest relationships are with her partner - burly, dog-loving Batou (Pilou Asbæk) - and Ouelet (Juliette Binoche), Major's doctor, creator and mother figure. "I think diversity in Hollywood is an important conversation to have, and I think it is something I totally understand, and support".

There's plenty more that's cool, too: the geisha bots (heavily featured in advertisements for the movie and exactly as fun as expected) and the action sequences that blur the line between film and anime and video game. I have to say this hardcore anime is really ahead of its time. The plot is not the same at all, though the basic elements were retained.

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With a PG-13 rating, the flesh-toned costume that Johansson sports in some scenes allows audiences to imagine her being nude. This seems like the film's way of getting around the race controversy, throwing its hands up to claim, "Hey, she's not Japanese or Caucasian!" This is particularly disappointing considering the depth and intricacy of the anime version.

To be sure, director Rupert Sanders ("Snow White and the Huntsman") delivers a handsome film, from the "Blade Runner"-esque overhead shots of an unnamed Asian city of the future, to the colorfully appointed characters lurking in almost every rain-soaked corner, to the holographic creations dominating the landscape, to some jaw-dropping POV angles, to some fantastically insane human-robot melding reminiscent of the HBO series "Westworld". When a terrorist starts hacking into people's memory she is best placed to track the perpetrator down.

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