Major’s home city and Hanka itself has been under attack from a cyber-terrorist with incredible skill. Allegations of whitewashing have dogged the production since we learned that Scarlett Johansson would be playing the part of Major Motoko Kusanagi.
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Ghost in the Shell (2017) was primarily based on the 1995 Ghost in the Shell animated adaption of Standalone Complex. The film adaptation presents the story’s themes in a more serious, atmospheric and slow-paced manner than the manga. In addition, in order to condense the manga into 82 minutes of screen time, the movie excludes the subplots in order to focus exclusively on the “Puppet Master” plot.
So with all my gushing over SAC why is it sitting so far down the list? Well, while SAC was pretty revolutionary in expanding upon the Ghost in the Shell universe over the original 1995 movie, the first season was actually pretty confusing at times. Important information would be glossed over very quickly and if you missed something that happened briefly in an earlier episode, suddenly you’re lost wandering down a path that you didn’t know you had even stumbled into. It might take two or even three viewings of season 1 to really come to grips with the mystery of The Laughing Man.
What makes us human? Is it flesh and bones? Is it the soul? Is it just intelligence? What truly defines a person? Ghost in the Shell is about these questions and more. The story is set in a world where humans, cyborgs, and machines co-exist. But all this technology, all this computerization, does it leave anything ‘human’? Ghost in the Shell is a futuristic, psychological, cyberpunk film directed by Mamoru Oshii and based on the manga of the same name by Masamune Shirow. Apart from the classic cop vs criminal part, it covers many philosophical questions about humanity and individuality. It is widely regarded as one of the greatest anime films of all time and was the start of a tremendous series.
There’s a definite disconnect: The tech-boosted folks have lost some of their humanity, while memories of Major’s pre-robotic existence are coming to the fore. You are more than a woman,” Dr. Ouelet (Juliette Binoche) tells her cyborg charge, though Major still yearns to learn more about her past — a path that has her questioning everything.
Frequent stylized action violence, with a relatively high body count. Death, injury, and damage are caused by martial arts combat, explosions, gun shots (ranging from a sniper’s distance to close range), and massive technological weapons. Mira and another cyborg are shown dismembered; another character’s eyes are irreparably damaged and later replaced by artificial vision.
Major Motoko Kusanagi is an assault-team leader for the Public Security Section 9 of “New Port City” in Japan. Following a request from Nakamura, chief of Section 6 , she successfully assassinates a diplomat of a foreign country to prevent a programmer named Daita from defecting.
The revelation might have worked had the film focused on the obvious dysphoria that a change of ethnicity would cause. There should be a sense of alienation and loss of self if one saw a stranger in the mirror. The Major’s memories were wiped, but the bulk of the movie features her trying to uncover her past. Intent or not, Johannson’s character is a Japanese woman.
A. Yes. The basic theme hasn’t changed since the very first film. I keep asking what are humans? What is it to be human? But while the basic idea has not changed through all my movies, my approach to that theme is slightly different in each film.
A live-action reboot seems like a solid way to right that wrong, and the film’s decades-old template still feels topical: humans toy with robotic upgrades; governments and major companies embrace the robotic future a little too much and get burnt as a result; characters mull the impact of how life is changed by a fully connected world. But this live-action reboot doesn’t just miss the subtle interactions, buried beneath the basic-plot surface, that made the original such a remarkable film. It also nukes the entire plot structure.
Of course, familiarity can often encourage nostalgia, and that’s not hurt by the fact that Ghost In The Shell ’17 is a cogently constructed entertainment. Director Rupert Sanders is an adept world-(re)builder and visualist, as proven by his debut Snow White & The Huntsman, which at least looked great. His reconstruction of the original’s key set-pieces, including the urban lagoon slugfest with an invisible Major, and the climactic showdown with a ‘Spider Tank’ (think ED-209 crossed with a Starship Troopers Tanker Bug), is impressive.
These are the sorts of consciousness-expanding questions that have animated the Ghost in the Shell franchise for more than two decades. The world of Ghost in the Shell is part futuristic action movie and part philosophy lecture, in which artfully constructed animated action sequences serve as vehicles for investigations into the nature of consciousness. It’s a showcase for what top-notch animation can do — one that the new movie never quite manages to match.
There is definitely something ‘off’ about Johansson‘s Major; a disconnect between her physical form and her true self. She’s been here before as an actor. There are close parallels to her performance in Under The Skin, where she played a predatory alien in a human form of limited functionality, and also shades of the super-woman Lucy, not to mention Black Widow from the Marvel movies (though there she was a different kind of programmed killing machine). But here she adopts a different physicality: hunched and heavy-footed, as if every movement is a heavy burden. There is a faint hint of Frankenstein’s Monster in her surly stride.
The core of the original was the protagonist, who has to prove to herself that she can live in her body, that she is still human. Here’s one example. In the original, the nameless, titanium-bodied protagonist goes swimming alone with a small floating device that allows her to get back to the surface, and whose failure would end her life. She courts death because it is important to her to remember her mortality, the power chance plays in life, and that life is nevertheless a choice, if it is to be really human. Because her body is a technological product, she is neither fully in control nor does she even own it.
The producers of this week’s new Ghost in the Shell film must really believe nobody has seen its source material. That’s the only way to enjoy this live-action reboot: oblivious to 1995’s original anime film or its manga comic-book precursor. Scarlett Johansson runs around futuristic, CGI-filled worlds in a skin-tight outfit. She shoots guns, kicks faces, and beats the bad guys. Not bad.
It does manage to condemn the transplant of Motoko’s brain into Mira’s body. But in refusing to look the uneasiness of those racial dynamics in the eye, the film also ends up undermining itself. The crime isn’t just that a girl was murdered, as it tells us. It’s also that a Japanese woman’s mind was put in the body of a white woman and then treated as inherently superior.
The new direction makes sense, as it’s keeping with the visual style that Netflix has sought out in several of its licensed anime series like Knights of Sidonia, Ajin:Demi-Human, and Ultraman. The change may be jarring for some but with franchise veterans like Kamiyama and Production I.G. at the helm, there is plenty to be optimistic about until Ghost in the Shell: SAC_2045 debuts this April.
Major is the first of her kind: a true blending of a human brain with a completely mechanical body. Not that she really knows anything other than that existence. She simply woke up and there she was, a new construct: a replaceable-parts robotic super soldier with no physical feelings or memories. A unit assigned to help the government’s counterterrorism agency, Section 9.
The original film is set in Japan, and the major cast members are Japanese. So why would the American remake star a white actress? The industry is already unfriendly to Asian actors without roles in major films being changed to exclude them. One recent survey found that in 2013, Asian characters made up only 4.4% of speaking roles in top-grossing Hollywood films.
Turn off your brain, and it’s easy enough to savor the noir beauty here. Director Rupert Sanders (Snow White and the Huntsman”) throws in countless hat-tips to the 1995 anime film. And many of his shots, such as a surgeon smoking a cigarette in her pristine lab, and a detective (Pilou Asbæk) with eye implants that resemble binoculars, look like they’re ripped straight from the original comic-book source.
Netflix has unveiled a new trailer for its 3DCG anime series Ghost in the Shell: SAC_2045 and announced that it will arrive in April of 2020. The video reveals that the entire original cast from the Ghost in the Shell SAC series, including Atsushi Nakanaka (Motoko Kusanagi), Akio Takatsuka (Bato), and Hirota Takaji (Togusa) will return. The music will be composed by Nobuko Toda, who worked on the Metal Gear Solid series, along with Kazuma Jinnouchi.
In the manga, Major Kusanagi would call him “ape face” or “old ape.” Also, in the 2017 version, he seems to be the only person to speak Japanese, yet he understands everyone else and everyone understands him. So, this allusion to the story’s source seemed very strange.
One of the highlights of the Ghost in the Shell remake is Beat” Takeshi Kitano, who plays the Section 9 chief. It is his first Hollywood movie appearance since another cyberpunk action flick, the 1995 Keanu Reeves-led William Gibson adaptation Johnny Mnemonic. While that would seem a more fitting recommendation, I’d rather encourage checking out Kitano’s Japanese films as a director, starting with this, his debut, where he plays a tough detective. Then maybe the noirish 1993 Yakuza film Sonatine.
Its heroine, Major (Scarlett Johansson), a hybrid warrior whose human brain has been implanted into the body of a robot, has a fondness for fighting in the nude that must have gone down well when the film was being pitched, but puts it off-limits for kids.
and their actors, including Canon Foreigner Ladriya, revealed details about their characters while promoting the movie. With the exception of the Major, Batou and Aramaki, the rest barely have some screentime in the movie itself.
There could have been a deeper exploration of race and identity, but Mira was much more concerned with her robotic self. The first thing she says after her brain is transferred is that she can’t feel her body, which sets up her conflict at the very beginning. She doesn’t feel human, and she doesn’t feel connected to other humans. Mira contemplates one of the destroyed robotic geishas, and fellow Section 9 team member Batou has to remind her that she’s “not like them.” She even considers herself an object and a weapon, reminding her creator that “this is how you made me.” Her sense of identity is mired in self-doubt. She’s only “The Major.” A thing.
In preparation for the new live-action Ghost in the Shell movie, I recently returned to the 1995 anime film on which it’s based, and I couldn’t help but think of two things: The Matrix , and philosopher Daniel Dennett. Like Disney’s live-action adaptations of its animated classics, this film is frequently beautiful but utterly fails to justify its existence.
The film adaptation presents the story’s themes in a more serious, atmospheric and slow-paced manner than the manga. In addition, in order to condense the manga into 82 minutes of screen time, the movie excludes the subplots in order to focus exclusively on the “Puppet Master” plot.
While the original film and series were financial and cultural successes (having inspired movies like The Matrix), the first crack at it as a live action movie starring Scarlett Johansson proved to be a flop. Cultural appropriation aside, that film had dazzling visuals but critics generally felt it lacked the highly original storytelling from the anime source material. If Netflix’s series can deliver that, then maybe the 3DCG animation style will bother folks less.