Powering Logan's Ghost out of the Shell
Hollywood has released a new licensed movie every week for the past three weeks. Normally these movies are not well received by critics or fans. I myself tend to have mixed feels toward them. I am not opposed to a different take when it comes to movies, games, comics and even anime. Granted they still need to be good in their own right (I am looking at you Dragonball Evolution). That said it is hard to strike the right balance between old and new whenever this is done. There is never a way to make everyone happy and some people wish Hollywood wouldn’t even bother. Nonetheless, I am always up for seeing something for myself and forming my own opinion. So without further ado here are my thoughts on the last three movies I have watched.
The first movie I saw was Logan. I did not get the chance to read Old Man Logan prior to but I did check out Comicstoian’s recap. The recap made it clear that the movie would be nothing like the comic. Nonetheless, I still loved the mood of the trailer and wanted to see Hugh Jackman's final Wolverine movie. A am happy to say that I loved the movie. It was well written and deep. Without getting into spoilers it was a fitting movie for Jackman’s Logan. Spoilers to follow:
Right off the bat, the first part of the movie I did not like was the needless flashing scene. Early in the movie Logan is flashed while working as a limo driver. The scene did little aside from letting the movie check the nudity box on the R-rated list. I have no problem with fanservice but the moment was too corny and pointless. To make it worst the poor woman had trouble getting them out in the dress she was wearing. The whole thing was quite forgettable. Another thing I did not like was Xavier. He was not the Charles Xavier I am used to. Granted there was a good reason for this. He was kept drugged to prevent him from having a psychic episode and wiping out a score of people with his powers. Still, it was weird to me. One thing I did love was how the movie directly references the comics and established itself as another universe. Logan’s clone X23 keeps a copy of the old X-Men comics as a source of hope and guidance. Logan responded to this by calling the comics fake. This bit of meta humor is brilliant. The movie takes a few hints from the comics but tells its own story. Inspiration can be seen in the connection between X23 and Logan. You can also find parallels with House of M that created a nearly mutant free world. In the end however, it was a story about Jackman’s Logan. It is about life, death, and leaving something for the next generation.
The next movie I saw was Power Rangers. I can still remember my friends joking about how Hollywood might not screw this up as adding more explosions would not be a bad thing. I had my doubts. The new designs were very different from the ones I knew as a child. It looked like it could be TMNT all over again. Thankfully it was not. Instead, it felt like a modern update to a classic story. It took more pages from the source than Logan and felt more fitting. Granted I mean MMPR and not Super Sentai. It starred a cast of teens who were all unique and they had to save the world from an alien threat with powers given to them by Zordon. The new rangers felt like fitting updates to their original counterparts. To make things better there was also some fitting meta humor. The movie acknowledges that 5 untrained teenagers will not become heroes overnight. It takes this opportunity to add more depth to the story and characters.
One of my favorite twists is making Rita the former Green Ranger. It sets the scene for a new Ranger to join in the future and makes her more connected to the Rangers than her previous self. It is so believable it makes me question my memories of the Green Rangers origins. Some of the modern elements may annoy some people. Like how Kimberly mentions feeling regret over spreading nudes of my friends. I was the weirdest part for me but it was not forced and I was ok with it. My favorite meta joke was watching the rangers struggle to learn how to pilot their Zoids. I also enjoyed a joke involving Billy. He tells Jason that he is “on the spectrum” which Jason jokingly replies, “Is that a diet?”. To me, this is Jason’s way of saying it is not a big deal as he accepts Billy for who he is. Personal I think the joke was in good taste and well played.
Last and not least is Ghost in the Shell. I can remember watching the anime movie on the Action Channel when I was a teen. It was a lot to take in and I did not fully understand it at the time. As a result, I have always wanted to revisit it. Whenever I see a Motoko Kusanagi at a con I am reminded of the movie and series that I want to dive deeper into. Playing games like Deus Ex and S.T.A.L.K.E.R. have only deepened my urge to revisit GitS with my new knowledge of transhumanism. Despite Hollywood's past failures I wanted to believe in this movie. Believe it or not, I can not think of a problem I had with this movie. It is true that my memory of the what I saw years ago is hazy but that might have been good. I spent less time comparing and more time watching. I found myself getting lost in this cyberpunk flick with a strong transhumanism plot. It is hard not to be fascinated by the possibility of a full body cyborg and a world of programmable human minds. The moral and philosophical issues that arise are so far out there but still manage to run parallel to some modern day technological issues. Maybe as the hype dies down I will see some flaws I overlooked. I know the movie was not perfect I had no major issues with it.
One minor gripe some may have might be with Scarlett Johansson's monotone performance. To me, this fit the major the way I remember her from my time with the original movie, bits I have seen of the TV shows, and Japanese trailers for other projects. I personally love the bait and switch with Motoko’s name. At first, she identifies herself by another name. She later realizes her current identity is fake and her real name was Motoko Kusanagi! The plot also was the closest to the source of the movies I saw. Section 9 was tasked with hunting down a hacker who was hacking people's minds. Along the way, the Major learns he is a cyborg obsessed with transhumanism and becoming the next step in human evolution. A deeper backstory was added for the major along with a corporate corruption subplot that ties everything together. Yes, it was not a carbon copy of the anime. Still, I think it held its own very well and I really want to rewatch the original, Stand Alone Complex, et al.
All and all this has been a good streak for remakes (ok Logan is not a remake). I know not everyone is happy with them but I have to take my hat off to these movies. When I disregard the source material and view each movie in a bubble they are good. That said I do think they at least try to respect the DNA they are cloned from. They have inherited great power from their predecessors and although the shell may have changed they share a similar ghost. I am hoping this leads to a new era of licensed movies.