So I watched the ScarJo version of Ghost in the Shell.
Visually, it was better than the early trailers and pictures made out. That's where the compliments, though small, end.
The trailers pitch it as a personal revenge plot, which isn't true of the source material, or this movie. The antagonist does want revenge, however. And the Major's team is tasked with stopping them. Not that it's that simple.
However, it doesn't rise to true Ghost in the Shell levels of complexity. For one it's only an hour and a half long movie, so time is limited, but I really don't think the writers were up for the challenge.
We learn that the Major's past isn't what we've learned in the film so far, which isn't a surprise, the trailers basically already said as much. And apart from a few lower key moments, we get yet another borrowing from the classic anime.
There's enough here fans will recognize, but far more that will drive them crazy if they care about quality.
"Major" seems to be less about genuine rank than part of a false identity (and pretty much the only name she goes by 99% of the time), meaning she's nowhere near the badass we know and love. Attentive fans will also clearly spot the difference when she bows to Aramaki, I don't ever recall her bowing. Saluting? I think so, but not bowing.
There are also times she seems to get overwhelmed, physically and virtually. Not in character. She's known for being as much a physical threat as virtual, if not more virtually. She'll employ dummy barriers, attack barriers, viruses, and more, all while likely hacking you. She's worthy of her rank, while sometimes referred to as the "She Ape" (the other "ape" being Aramaki), she's as much a tactician as a heavy hitter.
As to performances, I hate to, but gotta ding ScarJo on her portrayal. Not because of the whole whitewashing thing, which I do think is a huge problem. But in this case, also, because she just felt so wooden. I get it, Kusanagi isn't the easiest woman to portray, but that means it's time to bring your A game, and if you can't, then you're not right for it. And I could be mistaken, but think I cringed when she pronounced Batou's name.
The rest of the team isn't on screen much, except Batou. He's not perfect, but he's likeable, large, and a good balance to ScarJo being wooden. Although the writing messed with him a bit too, namely his eyes. But the rest of him too, physically, for those paying attention.
The writing... Ugh. There are parts that are serviceable, but other parts, too many, had me cringing. One in particular comes to mind basically at the end, which I think they intended as some punchy "Hell, yeah!" moment. But it was the total opposite, high cringe factor, and now that I think about it, seems to go against just what Section 9 does as well. Anyone who has watched the series in particular will understand.
Quick notes on wardrobe. I'm not the epitome of high end fashion or anything. But Kusanagi's tactical skinsuit is best *black*/grey. I get it, it looks a little more risque. Trust me on this folks, I've seen her nude and going thermoptic camo, and with the black body suit. If not nude, go black. Hell I prefer the black one. The rest of her team didn't strip to go invisible, FFS.
Also, gotta say Kusanagi dresses a lot wilder than this version. Don't get me wrong, I'm not huge on SAC season 1 outfits, but I think there was a good balance in 2nd Gig. Not crazy about Arise, but even that outfit was better. No nice leather jacket or shrug, no leather trench (love her SSS one), no corset and jeans. Apart from a couple missions, no military or casual military look.
Final verdict? Skip this, unless you want to wait and watch it for free on Netflix or something. Whitewashing and bad writing shouldn't get rewarded.
I have not seen the live action Ghost in the Shell yet.
I am not surprised it is not as good as the original. Most live action movies of good aren't. I dread what will become of Akira.
Pirating the movie sounds like a good option, from what you say.