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"ive-action 'Ghost in the Shell' is just ghost of a story
Whats in with Justin
Scarlett Johannson plays a machine-body experiment that develops a conscious while it is being used as an assassin in "Ghost in the Shell." - photo by Studio photo

"Ghost in the Shell" is the live-action treatment of the classic anime film and it’s too bad that it misses more than hits. But, hey, it’s got Scarlett Johannson looking sexy as ever and kicking bad guy butt. We’ve never seen her do that before, have we?

Johannson stars as Mira Killian, a sole survivor of an attack, who has been chosen to test out a new kind of artificial intelligence that develops a machine-body while using a human brain. The test goes well and soon the corporation responsible uses her as a kind of counter-terrorism operative.

Her next assignment involves thwarting an attack, but she begins to have hallucinations about her past out of nowhere and she starts to sense cracks in the system that lead her to question everything she knows about the program.

There’s another subplot involving Killian’s own past about how her parents were killed and once again, she starts to suspect a connection. She is not having a good day.

Based on an iconic manga and animated film, "Ghost in the Shell" contains some really cool visuals that are sensational and Johannson does a good job of playing this character with some depth and complexity. However, the plot is muddled and jumbled and dead in the water. Just like any kind of AI, there are too many ghosts in its own shell to keep it intriguing or stimulating.

As for a live-action remake, I would think that fans are going to be disappointed that this film, while honoring its visual aesthetic, are going to think the rest of the mechanics in the story are a secondhand version of "The Matrix" or "Blade Runner."

"Ghost in the Shell" is acted and directed with style and skill, but the plot doesn’t make it work. It’s often dull, which is bad enough, but it’s also sadly aimless and unfocused and that’s worse.

Grade: C+

Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence, suggestive content and some disturbing images.

This review is dedicated to the memory of Dan Manning.

Hall is a syndicated columnist in South Georgia.

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