Fanboy Report

Ghost in the Shell trailer breaks the internet

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As comic book and superhero films have effectively become the only substantial guarantee for box office success in Hollywood these days, it would make sense that major production studios would begin to explore their options in the comic book adjacent genres. To that point, it seems as though 2017 will be the year of comic book adjacency exploration, which is great, because beloved titles like Power Rangers, World War Z 2, and The Dark Tower will join the likes of Logan, Wonder Woman, Thor: Ragnarok, and Spiderman: Homecoming, all of which are hotly anticipated. But there’s one film purposely left unmentioned – arguably the most polarizing of the bunch – the  manga-adaptation Ghost in the Shell.

Japanese manga and graphic novels have been considered for live-action remakes over the past couple of decades, due largely to the style’s cultish following. That being said, some aspects of manga are much easier depicted (and more convincing) through animation than live-action (just ask the folks who made the Dragonball and Last Airbender films). Then there’s the continual issue of Hollywood executives straining source material by white-washing lead roles for otherwise non-white characters. Point and case being Ghost in the Shell, which stars Scarlett Johansson as The Major, a historically Japanese character, who sets out in the mid-21st imagining of the Japanese city known as New Port City to take on mind-body hackers in a predominantly cyborg society.

That’s the gist of a very basic Ghost in the Shell synopsis, but what serves of particular interest with the live action iteration of Ghost in the Shell is just how circuitous and arduous a process it has been for any Hollywood production studio to bring the property to theatres. In 2008, Dreamworks and Steven Spielberg acquired the rights to produce a live-action adaptation of the original manga, with Spider-Man franchise “saboteur” Avi Arad filling out the producer’s slate with Jamie Moss set to write the screenplay. By 2009, the Dreamworks version of the film had all but fallen through, which put the property to rest for another five years, until in 2014 it was reported that Rupert Sanders (Snow White and the Huntsman) was set to direct, with William Wheeler (Queen of Katwe) providing the screenplay.

Once all the production roles were filled, it was announced in 2015 that Johansson had accepted the offer to star as The Major. Naturally, many purists and equal rights advocates cried foul as yet another white actor had managed to take a non-white lead role from plenty of talented and deserving minority actresses. Then there was the secondary debacle that was the rumor that producers were testing cgi technology that would help make Johansson’s Anglo features look more like that of a native Japanese person. Cringe.

Luckily for fans of the manga, as the first trailer for the film has released, it appears as though Ghost in the Shell is remaining true to its source material outside of Johansson’s casting as The Major (which ultimately isn’t the worst thing, for now at least), with the trailer looking like an almost identical shot for shot live-action remake of the 1995 anime film.

There’s a lot riding on Johansson, Sanders, and Ghost in the Shell, as far as doing fan service to the manga and helping break down the barrier of burden for future manga films that don’t come out of the Studio Ghibli production house, and for the time being, things appear to be headed in that direction with Ghost in the Shell.