Her human mind and personality is the ghost of the title and her manufactured body is the shell that contains it.
Based on the internationally-acclaimed Japanese Anime property, Ghost in the Shell follows Major, a special ops, one-of-a-kind human-cyborg hybrid, who leads the elite task force Section 9 devoted to stopping the most unsafe criminals and extremists. Unfortunately, Ghost in the Shell doesn't have a post-credits scene, but the movie definitely leaves the door open for sequels.
With her chilly, monotonic reserve, Johansson is playing another version of a character that's become something of a go-to in recent years, in such intriguing speculative fantasies as "Under the Skin", "Lucy" and the rapidly evolving operating system in "Her". There are also key innings with a dramatically cloaked and metal-bodied character named Kuze, played by Michael Pitt (now going by his full name, Michael Carmen Pitt, no idea why).
It has to be said that "Ghost in the Shell" is ravishingly gorgeous.
Just about every scene in "Ghost in the Shell" is a visual wonder to behold - and you'll have ample to time to soak in all that background eye candy, because the plot machinations and the action in the foreground are largely of the ho-hum retread variety.
Somehow, though, Ghost in the Shell doesn't feel purely derivative - it's updated Blade Runner's oh-so-80s mix of rain, steam and neon into something more that feels more contemporary, with bright splashes of comic book-y color that nearly overwhelm the screen.
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Since news broke of Scarlett Johansson's casting as Ghost in the Shell's Major, the actress has been the recipient of plenty of backlash.
On a minor side note, it was too bad they did not choose to stick with the San Miguel Pale Pilsen beer Major and Batou drank in the anime. The brain of a human, but the body of a robot. Johansson was able to capture the personality of The Major from the anime, this time enhanced by the added focus on her own self-discovery. As a first-of-her-kind human-cyborg hybrid, she's got everything it takes to be THE ideal soldier.
The movie ends - spoiler alert - with Major very much back where she started professionally speaking: working with her team to protect Section 9 from any potential threat.
Are we meant to be moved by her plight?
Fans of the original and many left-leaning members of the press have worked themselves into a lather regarding the Westernization or "whitewashing" of the movie, and, to some degree, they have a point. Naturally, the anime features Japanese characters, and most of the actors in this film are Caucasian.
The stony-faced Takeshi Kitano might speak Japanese as Major's boss, but her fellow operatives are a multi-ethnic bunch who speak English. Who is she? Her pristine, wiped-clean consciousness is increasingly marred by flashes of memory, glitches that don't seem to match the story Major's been told: that she is a survivor of a refugee-boat disaster in which her parents perished and only her brain survived-heroically rescued from her ruined body to be planted in her current, flawless form. In Japan, the adventures of cybernetic future cop Major Motoko Kusanagi have appeared in comic books, TV series, video games and movies, the most notable of which is Mamoru Oshii's 1995 animated film.