Megan and I just got back from seeing Ghost in the Shell and "whew", I have to say I am really pleased with how the live action adaptation turned out.
The original Ghost in the Shell anime from 1995 is one of my favorite movies of all time. It is a quintessential cyberpunk story that perfectly hits upon all of the nuances that make sci-fi-fi and cyberpunk as fascinating as they are.The original film deftly touches upon the philosophical and moral questions around "what is human?" The animated film also has some of the most iconic and beautiful music and artwork ever created in animation. Check out the excellent video from NerdWriter regarding the original film.
So the adpation had a lot stacked against it from fans. Taking an iconic film in this genre and adapting it is a tough thing to do. The adaptation doesn't go as deep with the philosophical questions that the original, and its subsequent series tackle, but it does bring enough of those questions to the table to those who are looking for them. Viewers who don't want to be bothered don't have to get bogged down with the depth that some of those questions can bring.
The new film does a good job of hitting upon many of the famous scenes from the original and draws upon influences from the original film for the story, while still changing it up enough that the story can stand on its own. The new film also brings to the table several memorable and impressive scenes of its own such as the opening dining with the geisha's, and the drug house fight.
One of the large early criticisms of the film was the use of Scarlet Johansson to play Major Motoko. Early internet critiques argued of "white-washing" since the original film is Japanese and takes place in Japan. While I can understand some of this sentiments, I think Japanese animation does have a history of drawing female characters to have a more "western" look to them. I personally don't think the original Motoko design screams "Japanese" to be beyond the inherent style of the animation.
Scarlett Johansson did a pretty good job playing the Major, but I would have liked to seen her haircut look a bit less like a bad mullet. I hope we get to see some more films out of this, because we really need to see some more cyberpunk stories make it to the big screen.
For anyone out there looking to go a bit deeper into the Ghost in the Shell universe, or looking to get into those deeper philosophical questions, I highly recommend you check out the original film and the excellent "Stand Alone Complex" series that followed it.