Short answer: Ghost In the Shell was contrived and predictable. Long answer: in the time between the 1995 animated feature and the 2017 live action feature, there have been several movies released that were influenced by the anime. The thing about adapting non-American properties, is there are aspects of the original source material that are lost in translation; and when a major studio decides to adapt a foreign movie to a western audience, we get movies like Spike Lee’s version of Oldboy, DragonBall Evolution, or even a remake of an American show like The Last Airbender. They are wrong and butchered to a degree that makes you wonder why was this made. If studios are going to adapt or remake foreign movies it should be to the degree of The Departed or Black Swan; or movies that pay homage to the source material while being it’s own thing. Speaking of which, I can think of a couple of movies similar to the ‘95 GitS that had stronger elements that made them better western representations than the garbled mess the 2017 version was.
The main lady hero
Oh lord, where do I even begin? River Tam from Serenity and Leeloo from the Fifth Element come to mind when I think of sci-fi heroines that were more compelling, whose journeys resonated throughout the movies’ narrative and had me invested the entirety of the movie. The problem with Major in this iteration of GitS is all we are given is the creation of her being and then several scenes of exposition dumps. We are not shown we are told until an action scene takes place, at least with Serenity and The Fifth Element the plot is driven during the exposition.
The overall design
While the design of the city and characters were true to the anime, nothing screamed out more than “hey, this looks like Blade Runner,” even the screens over the buildings matched the aesthetic of the iconic lady drinking Coca Cola. One movie in particular which took the design template of Blade Runner and subverted it to a whimsical aesthetic was The Fifth Element. That world looked fun, the retro design of the ships and cruisers gave us the audience the impression that Luc Besson wanted to create a world with familiar elements in past history, and implement these quirks into the narrative.
Previously mentioned, every, single, action scene just had to implement a slow motion segment; there is a particular movie where hand to hand combat took an unique approach to the universe. That movie was Equilibrium. Who had seen gun-cata before? Well, that in itself definitely took visual cues from The Matrix, as well as John Woo’s Chinese releases. Point being, if a movie is going to implement past visuals of successful movies why would the slow-motion Zack Snyder fights be the bread and butter of action scenes?
Why Rupert Sanders? Had I not paid attention to the director I could have been told this was directed by Zack Snyder and took it at face value. Had this movie been in the hands of someone like Gareth Evans, Alex Garland, or Alfonso Cuarón, directors who have made fantastic sci-fi or action movies, would have delineated a different result in regards to pace, and not falling on exposition dumps in order to convey pertinent information.
There is an already built in audience for a movie like this in western cultures, blanding down the movie to appease the rest of the population was not the right course of action, it comes off as another notch in the ladder of failed adaptations. Honestly, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World was a better “anime movie”, at least with that the visuals matched how a live action anime would be translated, not a knockoff of The Bourne Blade Runner.