March 30, 2017

Ghost in the Shell: Costume Review

*This review may contain spoilers*

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to attend a pre-screening of Ghost in the Shell (2017). Ever since watching Cloud Atlas (2012), I had been wanting to see another good sci-fi fantasy film - and the trailer for Ghost in the Shell looked promising. However, these types of movies are not often done well (ie. Jupiter Ascending (2015)), so I did go in with some reservations.

Please note: I am aware Ghost in the Shell is based off a manga and anime of the same name, but since I have not read nor seen either, I am writing about this film as a standalone piece of media.

After watching the pre-screening, one thing that stood out to me in particular was the costume design.

I had been joking with my boyfriend, who attended the screening with me, that Ghost in the Shell would essentially be Scarlett Johansson jumping around in a nude, skin-tight bodysuit for two hours. If you think about female characters such as Black Widow in The Avengers (2012), Catwoman in The Dark Knight Rises (2012), or even Ava in Ex Machina (2014), they are all portrayed as attractive and curvaceous, even while mowing down enemies with a gun.

But I was pleasantly surprised to find that Johansson's character in this movie, Major, is not outfitted in such a way. She wears fitted, but not tight, bodysuits in conservative dark shades, and often favours chunky combat boots. Her most embellishing piece is a long, double-slit trenchcoat, which she quickly ditches as soon as she needs to dive off a building.

Even her nude armour is built for fighting and not flaunting. It goes from her neck all the way down to her toes, leaving minimal exposed "skin". Her body resembles the female form, but it is not overtly sexualized. Her form is not smooth and perky - it is rough and sturdy. Her short hair is surprisingly limp and stringy, making her very different from a bodacious babe. Even her gait complements her appearance. Her steps are heavy and robotic, and she often sports a combative hunch. Major's costumes focus on what she really is: a cyborg built as a weapon. Nothing is frivolous. Everything is functional.

And I like it.

My boyfriend, who is well-versed in the worlds of anime and gaming (I know, we could not be more different), wishes the costumes were more epic and dramatic, which I can understand. Fantasy films have the opportunity to explore flourishing costume design, and I agree Ghost in the Shell could have been executed with more visual impact. But I don't hate that they stuck with a basic look. It's rare to see female characters portrayed with such honesty, so I'll take the chance to express my appreciation for what this film has done in terms of costume design.

There are obviously many other aspects of this film I have not yet touched on. Luckily, Ghost in the Shell officially opens March 31, so I would love to hear what you think.

Image Source: IMDB

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