Doctor Who: Thin Ice – TV Review

The first episodes of Doctor Who’s tenth series have been very companion focused. The Pilot introduced us to Pearl Mackie’s refreshingly ordinary cafeteria worker, Bill, before Smile whisked her away on her first voyage to the far future. Thin Ice is the complete opposite of those episodes in every sense. Hurtling back in time to Regency era London, this period-set adventure is the episode that finally puts Peter Capaldi’s Doctor front and centre.

We re-join the Doctor and Bill immediately after last week’s bonkers dropping off point, with a massive elephant roaming across a frozen river Thames during a bustling frost fair. Far more worrying, though, is the giant creature that seems to be lurking beneath the ice and the floating, bioluminescent lights that are luring unsuspecting punters to their frosty deaths.

As is befitting a flagship show on the Beeb, Doctor Who has always excelled at aping period dramas and this episode is no exception. Director Bill Anderson faithfully recreates Regency era London in all it’s showy glory, and while the special effects don’t always convince – at one point Capaldi’s Doctor tries to make a serious point while waving a rubber fish around – Anderson injects plenty of fun into proceedings, particularly as the Doctor and Bill explore the various attractions at the fair. Encountering such odd delights as sword swallowers, street magicians, bare-chested wrestlers, and poor street urchins, the overall effect is wonderfully trippy, like a Dickensian Christmas tale mixed into a fever dream.

3473

It’s not all fun and games, of course. Written by Sarah Dallard, who previously penned the Clara-killing Face the Raven, Thin Ice sees Doctor Who stepping onto its soapbox to touch upon such weighty themes as animal cruelty, the class system, sexism and racism. It’s the latter that’s given the most focus here with 17th Century London refreshingly depicted as a combustible melting pot of different cultures, a fact which is often overlooked by the media (as Bill sharply points out).

That’s not to say the Regency era was some sort of utopian society where all creeds lived peacefully as equals, far from it. Bill’s initial reaction upon stepping out of the TARDIS is one of fear (“slavery is still totally a thing!”) and she’s forced to suffer through her fair share of nasty individuals spitting racist insults to her face (an incident which leads to a genuine punch-the-air act of heroism from the Doctor). There’s perhaps a case to be made for not giving such distasteful opinions the oxygen of publicity, but surely it’s important for a show ostensibly aimed at children to challenge such hateful views head on? And if that annoys the Daily Mail too, well that’s just an added bonus.

Doctor_Who_Thin_Ice_review___a_splendid_production_and_a_story_with_hidden_depths_

But while its themes are thoroughly modern, the episode continues to evoke ‘classic’ Who with its unhurried approach to storytelling. One of the most enjoyable elements of series 10 has been the space given to allow the Doctor and Bill’s burgeoning relationship to grow and develop. Thin Ice sees the early cracks begin to show in their friendship as Bill suffers her first brush with death, witnessing a young homeless boy getting swallowed up by the creatures beneath the river. Naturally, she’s horrified, grief-stricken and angry, feelings that are only intensified by the Doctor’s seemingly callous lack of emotion (though we of course know better). The episode is really a test of whether Bill is equipped to cope with the terrors that come with following the Doctor on his wild adventures. Needless to say she passes with flying colours.

There’s also an opportunity for Capaldi to really flex his acting talents for the first time this series. While it’s been fun to watch the Doctor take to his new role as Bill’s time travel tutor, which looks set to be a regular feature of the series, it’s pleasing to see a return of the complex, fully-rounded Twelve we’ve grown to love. Uncovering a sinister plot to keep an alien creature chained beneath the Thames’ icy wonders, Capaldi is clearly in his element, swinging between a full gamut of emotions with his usual ferocious energy as he goes up against the beast’s cruel captors. He even gets to deliver one of his soaringly eloquent speeches, this time deriding the use of oppression in all its forms. Simply put: it’s vintage Doctor Who.

jkjlkj

Sadly, it’s yet another episode in which a capable supporting cast are given very little opportunity to shine. Asiatu Koroma impresses as the savvy and compassionate leader of the pickpocket gang, Kitty, but otherwise there are few characters really worth talking about. Matt Lucas’ Nardole once again makes only a fleeting appearance to advance the series arc – here’s hoping the pay-off is ultimately worth such a frustrating build up.

The only other character worthy of note is Nicholas Burns’ villainous Lord Sutcliffe. Burns is suitably slimy in the role of a ruthless business owner who exploits alien creatures and the poor for his own personal gain, but unlike Capaldi and Mackie, he’s given very little screen time to explore his character in more depth – Sutcliffe apparently acts like an A-hole just for the hell of it. This appears to be the fatal flaw in Steven Moffat’s sedate approach to storytelling this series. While it’s exciting to watch the Doctor and Bill being given more space to explore new worlds and eras in detail, it has a tendency to leave very little time left for the actual plot. As a result, the climax to the episode feels undercooked and completely lacking in tension or suspense as any obstacle is swiftly overcome and Sutcliffe is effortlessly defeated just in time for the start of Casualty.

3605

Overall, Thin Ice is another enjoyable if slightly unremarkable episode that skimps on the story in order to focus on the intriguing interplay of its central pairing. Still, as long as Capaldi and Mackie continue to push their characters in exciting new directions, there’s every reason to keep on watching.

Doctor Who: Smile – TV Review

If last week’s season opener The Pilot was dedicated to introducing new companion Bill, this week’s episode of Doctor Who is all about fleshing out the burgeoning relationship between Peter Capaldi’s Doctor and his new friend. And like all new couples who’ve survived a few furtive first meetings, they’ve decided to embark on their first trip together as the Doctor whisks Bill on her first proper adventure to a distant planet.

At Bill’s request the TARDIS surges thousands of years into the future to land on the planet Gilese 581D, a brand new human colony that’s worryingly lacking in fleshy, bipedal inhabitants. What it does have, though, is a roving staff of cutesy robots with emoji faces who patrol the gleaming futuristic city to ensure all the humans are perfectly happy at all times. What happens when the smiley face on one of their mood indicators turns upside down? The answer will shake the skeleton from your skin. Literally.

doctor-who-smile-promo-pics-4

It’s fair to say Frank Cottrell-Boyce split fan opinion with his previous Who episode, In the Forest of the Night, but the screenwriter can surely look forward to a much warmer reception this time out. Riffing on such dystopian blockbusters as The Martian and Interstellar, Smile boats some intriguing and ingenious sci-fi concepts as it explores the perils of a fully digitised future and the possibilities and complications of colonisation, as well as offering come pretty disturbing proclamations about what may be the ultimate fate of our species on this planet. Cottrell-Boyce also throws in a few clever gags about our current relationship with tech. That the humans on this shiny new colony can only express their feelings via emoji’s feels like a pointed jibe at our over-reliance on smartphones and email to communicate.

Long-term fans will certainly be pleased to hear that Smile feels like an old school Doctor Who episode, whisking us off to a wildly inventive new world and giving us plenty of time to explore the unfamiliar surroundings in detail. The first half is pretty much a two-hander between the Doctor and Bill as they gently dig deeper into the deadly mysteries that lurk beneath Gilese 581D. Not only does this give us ample opportunity to take in the episode’s spectacular production design, it also leaves room for us to take a more in-depth look into the Doctor and Bill’s nascent relationship. Pearl Mackie again steals the show as Bill, delivering many of the episode’s best lines with her open critique of the TARDIS’ interior design (“You can’t reach the controls from the seats!”). There’s an entertaining freshness to their dynamic as they continue to suss each other out. The Doctor has been clearly energised by Bill’s arrival, revelling in the opportunity to be a flashy clever clogs as he schools his new friend in the ways of space and time, while Mackie’s excitable, slightly naive curiosity neatly offsets Capaldi’s immediately suspicious, possibly even cynical, attitude when they arrive on the new planet.

Series-10-Trailer-2017-7

Once again, this is not an episode in which the supporting cast are afforded a chance to shine, with Ralf Little and Mina Anwar’s talents particularly underused as two of the planet’s human settlers. As with last week’s episode, Matt Lucas’ Nardole struggles to justify his promotion to series regular, appearing in only one short scene at the start of the story. In fairness, this week’s appearance at least offers a hint of greater things to come from the character, with further reference made to the mysterious vault hidden below the university and the doctor’s as-yet-unexplained oath to watch over it.

The monsters, too, are unlikely to join the ranks of the Doctor’s most memorable foes. Apparently called the Vardys, the Wall-E-esque robotic servants seen in the promos are actually just the user-friendly interface for a giant swarm of worker droids who buzz around the city, hiding in the walls ready to pounce should anyone fail to keep their emotions in check. Of course, the emoji faces are inherently goofy, but the bigger problem is that the army of deadly robo-bees the Varyds control are similarly unimposing, even if their favoured method of execution involves chewing human flesh to mulch and grinding the remaining bones into fertiliser (still preferable to Matt Damon’s method of growing crops). Such a lack of menace means any attempts to raise the stakes in the episode’s final third inevitably fall flat. We just never truly believe that the Doctor and Bill are in any real danger when the Varyds are approaching.

doctor-who-smile-promo-pics-28

At the very least, the episode looks great. Filmed at the City of Arts and Sciences Museum in Valencia, the architecture is breathtaking. Perhaps taking its lead from The Girl Who Waited, the pristine white aesthetic echoes the glossy, if clinical, minimalist style that’s ever so popular in utopian fantasies right now.

It seems that Smile is another solid, if unspectacular, outing for our new TARDIS duo. The visuals are superbly striking and Cottrell-Boyce explores some intriguing and inventive sci-fi concepts in this futuristic adventure. Yet without a suitably menacing villain or an enticing set of supporting characters, there’s really very little here for fans to sink their teeth into. More than anything, it’s another promising glimpse into new Doctor/companion dynamic that seems to be growing stronger with every episode. Here’s hoping they continue to venture into exciting new directions as series 10 progresses.

Doctor Who: The Pilot – TV Review

The wait is over. After a Doctor Who-less 2016 (minus the now obligatory Christmas special), proper weekly adventures with our favourite curmudgeonly Time Lord have returned.

The fact that the first episode of series 10 is called The Pilot should not be overlooked. Perhaps worried by the show’s slight dip in the ratings during series 9, Steven Moffat has taken the departure of Jenna Colman’s Clara as an opportunity to press the reset button on the 54-year-old show. Exploring afresh the key concepts and joys of Doctor Who, The Pilot is a fun, if unremarkable, re-introduction to the madcap world of a hero who travels through time in a police box and uses a special screwdriver to fix the universe.

Clearly, this episode has its eyes firmly on attracting new fans to the series, which means a lot of time is taken up with explaining how the Tardis works and just exactly who is this hoody-wearing, electric guitar-rocking man who calls himself the Doctor. For long-term fans, that might sound like a lot of raking over old ground, but there are still a few pleasing callbacks and interesting tidbits (we finally learn the location of the Tardis loos, for example) to make it a worthwhile watch.

Series-10-Trailer-2017-20mackie-bill-570x321

The newest element is of course the arrival of the Doctor’s new companion, Bill Potts (Pearl Mackie). Introduced as a lunchlady working in the Bristol University cafeteria, there’s something immediately endearing about Bill. She curious and adventurous, sneaking into lectures at the university even though she isn’t a student, and a hopeless romantic, clumsily infatuated with a student called Heather and forever searching for a connection to the mother she never knew. While some have complained of being put-off by Bill’s lack of Who knowledge and constant questions, her ordinariness is part of her charm. She feels like a new fan of the show, excited, overwhelmed and completely in awe of this boundless new world she’s stumbled upon.

With so much of the focus on Bill’s induction into all things Time Lord, there’s very little room for the actual plot in this opening episode, which is one of the weaker series openers of recent years. New director Lawrence Gough works hard to inject some energetic flair into the visuals, with some strong CGI effects and plenty Sherlock-inspired whooshing camera work as a multitude of images surge across the screen. Sadly, The Pilot also shares some of Sherlock’s biggest narrative flaws.

Moffat once again demonstrates his knack for transforming ordinary things into frightening monsters, this time turning his imaginative eye to puddles. The sudden appearance of a pool of water is what first attracts the attention of the Doctor and his new companion. It hasn’t rained for days and yet the puddle never seems to dry out, even as the weeks and months pass, and when anyone stares into it they can’t help but be unsettled by their own reflection, even if there not quite sure why. Things get even more terrifying when the puddle decides to go all Terminator 2 on the Doctor and Bill, leading to scenes of a watery figure rising up out of plug holes in pursuit of its enemies.

Doctor Who S10 Ep1

But while the episode is not short of scares, it’s incredibly light of momentum and impact. Part of problem is that story feels very disjointed, inheriting Sherlock’s scattershot story structure by constantly surging forward in time with endless montages and short scenes that never allow the themes and ideas of the story to gain a foothold.

The impact is most keenly felt with the supporting characters. The much-hyped Daleks are barely worth a mention. Rather than being the primary villain, as you’d expect, their inclusion here is inconsequential to the main plot and feels like nothing more than a fan-pleasing afterthought. Stephanie Hyam’s Heather also feels like wasted opportunity. The literally starry-eyed object of Bill’s affections, Heather initially seems like just another MPDG enticing Bill to seek adventure, only for nascent relationship to be scuppered when she’s dragged into the puddle to become a vessel for its watery fury. The entire episode hinges on romantic connection between these two characters but it’s not given enough time to develop. Consequently, what’s intended to be heart-wrenching finale turns out to be nothing more than a soggy mess.

And then there’s Nardole, the Doctor’s other new recruit. Plenty of fans questioned Matt Lucas’ promotion to series regular and there’s very little here to suggests he’ll break out of his comedy butler routine anytime soon.

nintchdbpict000313594938

Given this is such a companion-centric story, it’s perhaps unsurprising that Peter Capaldi’s the Doctor doesn’t get much of an opportunity to shine. It’s fun to see the Doctor lark around as a bonkers university lecturer, a role we’re likely to return to given he’s yet to discover the secrets behind the mysterious vault hidden below campus, but here he’s really only required to spout sci-fi mumbo-jumbo to a confused Bill.

More encouragingly, there are already signs of a sparky Doctor/companion dynamic burgeoning between Capaldi and Mackie. As Nardole helpfully points out, there’s some good banter between the two and, more importantly, by the episode’s end Bill has already started to challenge the Doctor by reminding him of his humanity when he attempts to wipe her memory. It’s vital that the companion provides a humanising counterweight to the Doctor’s alien behaviour, and it’s promising to see that Bill already has the measure of her new friend.

The Pilot, then, is an encouraging, if unspectacular start to series 10. While it doesn’t offer the grand spectacle of previous series openers and feels disappointingly light on strong villains and supporting characters, it’s a spry and effective introduction to the Doctor’s new companion. And you never know, it might just welcome a whole new set of fans to the wonderfully strange world of Doctor Who.

The first trailer for Star Wars: The Last Jedi is finally here

We’ve waited. And waited. And waited a little bit more… but the first trailer for Star Wars: The Last Jedi is finally upon us. And it’s certainly doesn’t disappoint.
Officially unveiled at today’s Last Jedi panel at Celebration Orlando, the new trailer offers our first glimpses into the continuation of Rey, Finn and Poe’s journey, picking up immediately after the events of The Force Awakens.
There’s a lot to take in here, even in the short snippets of footage we get to glimpse. There definitely appears to be dark times ahead for the Resistance. Their bases are under attack, Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) is on the warpath and what looks to be an almighty space battle looming on the horizon.
Daisy Ridley’s Rey, meanwhile, is continuing her Jedi training with Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) – though Luke’s ominous words don’t hold much hope for the future of Force-weilding warriors. “I only know one truth,” he intones. “It’s time for the Jedi to end.” At least we finally know what the movie’s title is referring to.
Star Wars: The Last Jedi is written and directed by Looper’s Rian Johnson and will be with us in December.

Guerrilla – TV Review

Guerrilla might be set in early ’70s London, but its subject matter couldn’t feel more timely.

Written and co-directed by 12 Years a Slave Oscar winner John Ridley, the six-part drama is a thoughtful, at times blisteringly brutal exploration of how seemingly ordinary people could be drawn into a world of radical militancy if pushed far enough. It tells the story of a young couple who, after experiencing an incident of horrific police brutality, are driven to a violent action of their own as they join the war against the Black Power Desk – a Special Branch unit dedicated to quashing all forms of black activism.

gallery-1488743121-guerrilla-3

Backed by Sky Atlantic, the series is undeniably beautiful in its craft and has a palpable sense of place, painting a grim portrait of 70s London. The cobbled alleys and side streets are unnervingly quiet, while the coloured community gather in dingy apartments and crumbling bars as Richard Nixon’s voice periodically crackles over the radio.

But while the visuals evoke the past, Guerrilla’s themes and cultural issues remain relevant to our times. The series depicts a world fractured by divisions. Authority figures can’t be trusted, a right-wing media is whipping the public into a frenzy with fear mongering, and the colour of a person’s skin or the subject of their religious beliefs is seen as reason enough to brand them a “troublemaker”. You won’t have to look to far to see the parallels with British culture in 2017.

gallery-1488741506-guerrilla-2

Perhaps keenly aware of our tendency to exist in our own social media-enforced echo chamber, Ridley goes to great lengths to explore all perspectives in the argument, spending plenty of time exploring the private lives of his cast. We see Babou Ceesay’s gentle, well-educated Marcus fighting to remain faithful to his ideals as he struggles to find work; meanwhile his Indian wife Jas (Freida Pinto) grows increasingly frustrated by responding to oppression with ineffective protests. We also see Rory Kinnear’s calculating Special Branch agent playing with his mixed-race son and fantasising about Wunmi Mosaku’s informant before orchestrating the murder of a black activist by sabotaging a peaceful demonstration.

While it’s incredibly uncomfortable to watch (a police raid on a peaceful protest is soberingly violent), it’s also superbly acted. Ceesay and Pinto make for an endearingly affectionate couple, both of whom are quiet and intelligent yet painfully conflicted over how to respond to the injustice that surrounds them, and Idris Elba (who co-produces here) makes fleeting appearances as Jas’ slightly mercurial ex.

The result is a bold, powerfully unsettling drama that dares to push its viewers outside of their comfort zones and challenges them to think about other perspectives. Guerrilla is a searing piece of television and it’s simply impossible to ignore.

The Boss Baby – Film Review

Glengarry Glen Ross’ Blake, 30 Rock’s Jack Donaghy, SNL’s President Trump… Alec Baldwin has played a mightily impressive collection of petulant, business-obsessed braggarts with more balls than brains during his career. The Boss Baby presents a surprising opportunity to add to his rather niche oeuvre, voicing a tyrannical, suit-wearing baby with tiny hands who causes chaos with his unexpected arrival in a white house. If only the movie itself could match Baldwin’s bravura energy and impeccable comedic timing. Instead, The Boss Baby is a frantic, ill-conceived and only occasionally funny family comedy that preaches the importance of love yet lacks any semblance of a heart.

The story is told through the completely unreliable point of view of imaginative seven-year-old Tim (Miles Bakshi), an only child who spends his days having fun with his parents (Jimmy Kimmel and Lisa Kudrow) by conjuring wild fantasies in his mind. His blissful childhood crashes to a halt when his parents proudly announce the arrival – by taxi, no less – of Tim’s little brother, the Boss Baby (Baldwin). While his family gush over their new arrival, Tim endeavours to prove to them that the briefcase-carrying tot is not a real baby but a corporate stooge on a secret mission to find out why puppies are stealing all the love in the world and threatening to drive babies out of business.

The-Boss-Baby-HQ-Desktop-Wallpaper-11161

There’s an obvious attempt to replicate Toy Story’s mismatched central pairing here, especially when Tim and the Boss Baby are forced to buddy up to save their parents, but this movie lacks the warmth and emotional depth of the Pixar classic. Crucially, director Tom McGrath completely forgets to make his lead characters likeable. We’re supposed to sympathise with Tim because he feels forgotten by his parents, yet by immediately taking against the new arrival before he’s provoked he just comes across as a spoiled brat. The Boss Baby is similarly irredeemable as he attempts to drive a wedge between Tim and his parents even though such a cruel tactic has absolutely no relation to his primary assignment. Even the common goal that ultimately brings them together feels needlessly callous as they team up to send the Boss Baby back to Baby Corp headquarters – a move that would rob Tim’s parents of a child they clearly adore.

It doesn’t help that the movie’s bonkers premise doesn’t hold together either. The Boss Baby is on a mission for Baby Corp, the heavenly factory that squirts out babies to expectant parents, to gather intel on the Forever Puppy, an everlasting pooch designed to wipe out the competition for parental love. We’re initially led to believe this is another of Tim’s flights of fancy, re-imagining the arrival of his baby brother as a hostile corporate takeover in much the same way his bath time becomes a deep sea rescue mission or a bike ride becomes a trip in an out-of-control spacecraft. The idea becomes increasingly convoluted as the screenwriter Michael McCullers struggles to explain how every plot development could be taking place in Tim’s mind and he eventually gives up on the device entirely. All of which forces us to believe there really is a secret baby factory in the sky and that it’s closest competitor is plotting to use puppies to take over the world. Even for a movie aimed at children, that’s pushing the boundaries of credibility a little too far.

The-Boss-Baby.png

It’s not all bad, of course. There are some clever gags aimed at middle-management culture (even if they’re likely to fly over the heads of younger viewers), Tim’s daydreams are inventively animated and there are a number of exciting set-pieces, including a thrillingly silly car chase soundtracked to the theme of ‘70s cop show S.W.A.T. The problem is that McGrath never manages to harness The Boss Baby’s strongest aspects into a winning product. Instead, he takes a scattershot approach, throwing every possible idea at the screen and hoping enough sticks to make an entertaining movie. Unsurprisingly, such an ill-advised tactic fails to pay dividends.

Runtime: 97 mins; Genre; Animation; Released: 1 April 2017;

Director: Tom McGrath; Screenwriter: Michael McCullers

Stars: Alec Baldwin, Miles Bakshi, Lisa Kudrow, Jimmy Kimmel, Steve Buscemi

 

Ghost in the Shell – Film Review

Hollywood’s never-ending quest to crack anime has been plagued by setbacks. Dragonball: Evolution bombed at the box office in 2009, Battle Angel Alita suffered numerous false starts before Robert Rodriguez dragged it over the finish line, and a long-gestating adaptation of 1988’s landmark sci-fi Akira remains unmade.

It’s a similar story for Ghost in the Shell, based on Masamune Shirow’s Japanese manga series, which languished in development purgatory for more than a decade only to be pummelled with complaints of white-washing as soon as its cast was announced. The final result is unlikely to win over its dissenters, neither is it likely to usher a new era of anime adaptions. An utterly spectacular visual masterpiece it might be, but this cold and emotionless sci-fi actioner lacks an engaging ghost to go with its slick and stylish shell.

yd2CcdXL2ZZkKLNN56xXKd-650-80

Scarlett Johansson plays Major, a human brain cut and pasted into a synthetic cyborg after her original fleshy avatar was ravaged in a shipwreck. Or so she’s told. A year later Major is ensconced within Section 9, a shadowy government task force devoted to thwarting cyber terrorism in a near-future world where everyone has some kind of tech crafted onto their bodies and personal data is stolen not from a person’s Facebook profile but by hacking into their brains.

The source material is almost three decades old but its subject matter feels as timely as ever, raising dark questions about the nature of identity and privacy in a society dominated by technology. It’s clear, too, that director Rupert Sanders had ambitions of turning it into this generation’s Blade Runner, even if the clunky and perfunctory script lacks the depth or nuance to meaningfully explore such weighty themes.

gallery-1490784559-ghost-in-the-shell-geisha

Instead, we end up with a conveyor belt of tightly choreographed, cool-looking action sequences – an opening heist in a geisha restaurant plays like the warped offspring of The Shinning and The Matrix – held together by a bland, predictable plot that fails to justify the hype.

Thank the stars, then, that Ghost in the Shell is such a staggeringly beautiful movie to watch. Sanders had already proved his gift for immersive world-building – his similarly hollow debut, Snow White and the Huntsman, was at least great to look at – and he cements that reputation here with some mightily impressive design work.

gallery-1490784628-ghost-in-the-shell

The nameless, pan-Asian metropolis which Major calls home is a richly detailed tech-topia where giant holographic fish weave between high-rises and where every inhabitant sports some kind of cyber enhancement. Such fantastical imagery can become bewildering but Sanders wisely grounds the futuristic visuals with some gritty realism, erecting gloomy, colourless tenement buildings which disappear into the smog that hangs over the city with unnerving permanence.

Much of the conversation surrounding the movie has focused on the choice of Johansson to play a traditionally Japanese role, and the filmmakers at least attempt to find a narrative explanation for her casting by depicting Major as a woman whose personality doesn’t fit her body. While it would’ve been progressive to cast an Asian in the role, there’s no denying Johansson has an impressive knack for playing such alienated figures. She not only kicks ass with the grace and efficiency of a merciless killer, but also possess an otherworldly quality that feels like a perfect fit for Major. Throughout, her movements are stiff and disjoined, almost as if her body is permanently out of sync with her brain, no matter how many mind-altering drugs she’s prescribed by Juliette Binoche’s conflicted doctor.

Yet, her fundamental lack of personality proves to be the movie’s biggest flaw. Major is so disconnected from the world around her that it’s an almost impossible challenge to engage with her story. With no emotional arc to connect to, it’s unsurprising that Major’s final showdown with Michael Pitt’s crudely underdeveloped terrorist falls flat. Not to worry, though: a gun-toting spider robot swiftly rampages into shot to distract us from how disappointingly weightless this confrontation feels.

It’s a sequence that pretty much sums up Ghost in the Shell: a bold, visually mesmerising sci-fi action movie without a compelling narrative to go with it. A glossy shell without a fully-formed ghost, you might say.

Runtime: 107 mins; Genre: Sci-fi; Released: 30 March 2017;

Director: Rupert Sanders; Screenwriters: Jamie Moss, William Wheeler, Ehren Kruger;

Stars: Scarlett Johansson, Michael Pitt, Juliette Binoche, Takeshi Kitano