First Hit: Interesting to watch but not very engaging. This is one of those films that with the right use of computer generated graphics and a great story we’d have a wonderful film. However, I think the script failed to create the sense of urgency this film can create.
A couple of the questions this film brings are: Will we all become a brain inside a hi-tech mechanical robotic body? Will the brain be able to embrace all our memories and our souls while operating without the rest of the body and all the other cells that hold memories of their own?
Here we have Major Mira Killian (Scarlett Johansson) waking up from a procedure that implanted her brain into a cyborg body. She struggles with memories because the lines between humans and robot are becoming blurred and therefore, she is as well. She was built to be a weapon.
She’s not the first and one of her predecessors Hideo Kuze (Michael Pitt), has become an enemy of the company manufacturing both him, Major, and other robotic cyborgs. He foils many of the company’s plans and when Major does a “deep dive” into a robotic that had been compromised by Kuze, she learns something about Kuze and has a stronger desire to find him.
Major’s support comes from District 9 Chief Daisuke Aramaki (Takeshi Kitano), friend and solider Batou (Pilou Asbaek), and her direct creator Dr. Ouelet (Juliette Binoche). Additionally, she learns of her real history when she meets Motoko’s (Kaori Yamamoto) mother. She learns and figures out that she is Motoko.
Most of the film is shot at night or in very dark scenes which made this film more difficult to watch in that there was little in the way demonstrating light and hope. However, from a filmmakers point of view, they couldn’t create the interesting CG figures that are as tall as buildings that grace the skyline if it wasn't dark.
In general, there wasn’t enough digging into the issue that's behind the story, the issue of combining mankind and machines into one unit. The film just danced around the subject.
Johansson was good but she lacked a great story, poor direction or, more than likely, both. Knowing her capabilities in roles like this (think “Lucy”), in this film she felt lifelessness. Pitt’s role was supposed to be intelligent and dark. It was dark but didn’t really work in the intelligence arena as the script was limited. Kitano was one of the best pieces of this film. He was clear in his role and delivered aspects of what this film could have been. Binoche was almost out of place. She's fresh and alive, and although I bought her role, I’m not sure she couldn’t have known more about her boss’s intention. She doesn't do naive well. Yamamoto was exquisite. I loved how she related the story of losing her son and daughter. Asbaek was great as Major’s friend and fellow soldier. Jamie Moss, William Wheeler, and Ehren Kruger wrote a mediocre screenplay as the dialogue did not create much interest. However, the direction by Rupert Sanders was as much to blame for the failure of this film as well.
Overall: This film comes from great stock, but fails to really engage the story and therefore the audience.