I tried watching the anime before seeing this live action film and could not get drawn into it whatsoever. The only thing that stuck was the opening credits song so I didn't really have an expectation that going in I was going to hate this movie just that it may try something different. It is most definitely not a remake of the anime, it tells it's own story while including elements from the world that was established in the anime.
The main thing this film has going for it is by far its production value. It is a beautiful film. The direction, CG elements, score, cinematography, sets, all are just top notch stuff. It is cyberpunk but in a way that doesn't get too gritty or overly textured/alien looking like what seems to be a trend in similar films of the genre. It is just a visual feast that fits the world they are trying to create and adds a dimension to the story. Nothing seems overly fake or out of place, it feels like a realistic future city with interconnected networks which can be accessed by elite groups and be hacked to dangerous effect.
The performances were solid, the main cast were all great choices with only one of the more side characters being a bit to stock villain for my taste. Scarlett Johannson was a believable cyborg if that is really even possible. Not as good as perhaps Alicia Vakander in Ex Machina but as a super solider (something she knows a little bit about) she is convincingly capable and she has enough of a back story to help flesh out her character to where you can feel for her and the mysteries that she tries to uncover for the film.
The idea of implanting upgrades for artifical enhancement is a debate many people have but in this world in particular it seems less from a cosmetic view but as a functional one making the question of when a human stops being human a real topic of discussion. The title refers to this as Scarlett Johannson's character is a brain (Her Ghost/soul) inside a 100% synthetic body (The Shell).The down side I found was that by the second half it did kind of drag as the main plot was sort of solved and its conclusion was one that, especially as of late been done before. However had I not seen so many similar films with the same plot device I may have enjoyed it more and it made up for it in terms of its style and direction. This is not superheroes or big budget action stars blowing things up. There is a level of mystery and intrigue that is quite compelling. It certainly felt like it was aspiring to be more artistic and thoughtful that major blockbusters and that is to be applauded. Thought and care went into the production and as a result we are greeted with a beautifully realized world in which a somewhat conventional, overdone story takes place.
If you liked the world that Ghost In The Shell inhabits you will likely have a good time with this film. It's a treat to watch in that respect. The music fits perfectly and the performances are solid. There is mystery and questions that are posed which are interesting if overused as of late but overall make for an interesting movie that just runs out of steam until the last few minutes which saves it a bit. With a shorter run time or a bit more interesting solution to the mystery this could have been a great film. As it is, it is a good one but as it seems with critics one where your mileage may vary.