The trailer for DreamWorks’ upcoming film Ghost in the Shell, starring Scarlett Johansson, was released this past weekend. It’s based on the popular franchise created by Masamune Shirow. Spanning a 3 volume manga, 2 theatrical films, a tv series and movie, an OVA and several video games, it chronicles the exploits of cyborg Matoko Kusanagi and her team, a secret government agency known as Section 9, as they fight cyber-crime in a futuristic Japan. The series is rife with Shirow’s musings on philosophy, technology, consciousness and identity.
The series has been around for 27 years and is finally getting a live action film. The trailer is definitely surprising, to say the least.
Being two of the most prominent characters in the series, Batou and the Major are going to get the most attention. Batou’s most defining physical characteristics are his large stature and standard issue ranger cybernetic eyes. His movie incarnation seems to fit the bill enough (though I feel like his eyes are a little too small)
The Major, on the other hand, has a few notable departures from her ‘95 depiction. Her internals seem to be more akin to something out of I, Robot. That being said, the thermoptic camo suit she’s wearing is a beautiful rendition of the one from ‘95 film. Some of the still images of it were initially off putting to me, but looks much better in motion. Perhaps it was the lack of contrast between the suit and the gloves/boots the Major is wearing.
Beyond character models, the movie seems to be blending the locales of ‘95 film with the sprawling CGI billboards and city fanfare of the ‘04 film
According to the trailer, the Major is a specially designed cyborg agent acting as public protector. But she can’t shake the feeling that something is off about her life. She feels out of place in society – perhaps even in her own body. Spurred on by her suspicion, and accusations that her past has been stolen from her, the major fights to reclaim her past life.
It forgoes the premise of the ‘95 movie in order to pursue its own. If anything, this premise has shades of Oni, Battle Angel Alita and The Bourne Identity (I’ve heard it called “The Kusanagi Identity” and I couldn’t help but chuckle and agree). This definitely surprised me and I’m happy that (at least in this regard) it isn’t trying be GITS ’95.
Well, I guess cyborgs like myself have a tendency to be paranoid about our origins. Sometimes I suspect I am not who I think I am, like maybe I died a long time ago and somebody took my brain and stuck it in this body. Maybe there never was a real me in the first place, and I’m completely synthetic like that thing.
Interestingly enough, I do think the premise as it stands is still befitting of the “Ghost in The Shell” moniker. You see, the above quote is uttered by the Major in GITS ‘95 after coming face to face with the main antagonist of the film. So a premise centered around her grappling with her identity, especially by reclaiming one of the key aspects of it: her memories, still washes with the greater lore – even if it IS an inversion of previous characterizations.
However, there is something that still gives me pause. The premise seems rather straightforward, right? Well, yes, but the trailer becomes a bit more confusing then if you’re familiar with the previous entries in the franchise. Simply put, what I’m hearing and what I’m seeing aren’t lining up.
Those scenes? They seem oddly similar to a handful of scenes in GITS ‘95, not to mention some potential references to events in the anime and the 2014 film. Are we going to get some continuity nods or are they just recreating scenes wholesale? I really want to believe that GITS 2017 is trying to be its own movie and I hope it does. But if you are, then why are you pilfering so many iconic scenes from GITS ’95? If you want to have Thermoptic camo, then put it in. If you want to have the major beat the brakes off of a guy while wearing it, do that too. Hell, if you gotta have a fight with a tank, just do it. But for the love of all that is right in the universe, do it your own way.
The beauty of the video media in the franchise was that it sifted through the printed media, pulled out select plot saplings and fleshed them out into satisfying stories in their own right. They’re a bit like the AI that grew a ghost and became self-actualized individuals in their own right. But what I’m seeing from the trailer is an amalgamation of those things. It’s like a ghost dubbing – something that essentially destroys the source and the copy.