in the Shell”
“Ghost in the Shell” envisions a future where the distinction
between human and machine becomes increasingly blurred.
Humans choose to continually “upgrade” with cyber-components.
There aren't many humans left who aren't at least part machine.
All in the unending quest for self-enhancement.
The government, meanwhile, utilizes technology to become
increasingly controlling and invasive to its citizenry, all in the name of
“security.” Anyone who
opposes them is by definition a “terrorist,” and needs to be removed.
The few people who still manage to nurture the quite-human instinct
of rebelling against authority find themselves increasingly outnumbered.
It seems there was a little cell of runaways, renegades, futuristic
beatniks/hippies/dropouts/slackers who were particular targets of the
government's “repatriation” program.
They were simply captured and handed over to the
“experimental”division, and their families were notified that they
“Major” (Scarlett Johansson) is the prize cyborg, because she
is the first sucessful robot with a complete brain transplant.
Once the operation was completed, they then fed her brain with
“false” memories of losing
her family in a boating disaster, and she was saved from drowning.
They give her drugs to maintain control of her mind, but tell her
it's to preserve the cohesion between her manufactured body (“shell”)
and her “ghost,” or mind. Thus,
she's a “ghost in a shell.” Oh,
and they created her with this practically-invulnerable shell so they
could use her as an “anti-terrorist” weapon, but really, she's just a
government-sponsored assassin. And
she's good at it, because she can also “morph” into a virtual
disappearance, and is able to stalk human prey through mind-hacking.
Her “handlers” are delighted with her usefulness as an
Dr. Ouelet (Juliette Binoche) is reponsible for the repair and
maintenance of Major, but being human herself, she's also attuned to the
“ghost” or “spirit” side of their magnificent machine.
Since Major possesses an intact human mind, she's also capable of
emotion, intuition, fear, pride, self-delusion, intransigence, and maybe
even...affection? Dr. Ouelet
would love to see this side of Major nurtured, but she's being overruled
by her bosses, who want to negate any unpredictable part of Major so they
can more completely control her.
What Major begins to discover is that all is not as it appears,
including what they have told her about herself.
She wonders whom she can trust.
She's tempted to “go rogue,” knowing that that would make her
the next target of the government. But
sometimes the price of freedom is rebellion.
This futuristic scenario is all too credible, and Ms. Johansson is
quite convincing in her robotic role, even if she does have to prance
around in a tight body suit. We
empathize in her quest for finding her own unique humanity in the midst of
a depersonalizing environment. And
we hope this really is science fiction, and not eerily prophetic.