First Look at Scarlett Johansson in Ghost in the Shell (and a Second and a Third)

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Fixated on her reflection — now, now, she’s not an egotist, she’s worried if she’s… real?

Paramount and Dreamworks are speaking without words on this one, and were I more paranoid, or invested in the prospect of an American Ghost in the Shell, I’d say such behavior contrasts with the verbosity the series is known for. It’s a bold announcement, but a smart one, allowing a key visual to speak for itself.

It’s also long been announced in development, so this is only an announcement on anime fan terms. For decades, anime fans have been hearing about the American live-action adaptations of Akira, Evangelion, Space Battleship Yamato, Cowboy Bebop, and Ghost in the Shell, but each has been mired in development hell. Because each new announcement became increasingly difficult to believe, the principle became, ‘I’ll believe it when I see it,’ in other words, once they start filming.

And Ghost in the Shell has started filming. It’ll go any number of ways, all depending on the content of its story, and how much of that content can be marketed. The guaranteed audience is people like me, but as Scott Pilgrim and Snakes on a Plane have shown, you can’t depend entirely on those numbers. If it looks like a hacker thriller, like a cheap Bourne flick, it might do reasonable business in addition, but how exciting would that be? A true Ghost in the Shell experience would be compelling, as the 1995 and 2004 features were, and Batman V. Superman: Dawn of Justice demonstrated that word of mouth is also highly important. You can play all kinds of games, but the best guarantee… is making a good movie.

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This is another example of the filmmakers reportedly ‘going back’ to the original source material, over the much more prominent other adaptations. We saw this kind of talk with the remakes of Oldboy in 2013 (somewhat), and Total Recall in 2012, and it was patently false in each case. By the plot details and character names of this upcoming Ghost in the Shell film, we might guess it’s something of a remix of elements from Stand Alone Complex.

Apparently the Laughing Man is a cyber-terrorist bent on destroying a corporation’s advancements in technology, and Section 9 is working for (maybe with…?) that corporation. It sounds like a simplified version of the first season, but if it turns out that the Laughing Man is actually more of a whistleblower, and the corporation has been working with a Secretary General to defund proper CS treatment… well, that might be sky pie. I’m just glad they didn’t go the obvious route, the Puppet Master storyline. Been there, a-done that.

And yet, the casting of mysterious Scarlett Johansson indicates a more Oshii style of Major, as opposed to the vibrant Stand Alone Complex incarnation, or the goofy, sociopathic Shirow wet dream of the manga.

The image looks accurate to Oshii’s film, and that’s promising. But what excited me even more was news that Beat Takeshi is playing Aramaki. It’s considerably less accurate, given that Takeshi is best known for playing hardcore, if aging, gangsters – or funnymen – and Aramaki is a small guy who’s the butt of namecalling in the manga, but deadly serious everywhere else.

My preferred iteration of the Chief is Stand Alone Complex, as it is with everything, but I did enjoy his turn in Ghost in the Shell 2, where he spent the whole film gazing into a screen and talking about not being Caesar to understand Caesar, and elephants in the forest.

I can safely say now I’m not overly interested in the movie. ScarJo would not be my first choice for the Major, but not because she’s white necessarily. I also always imagined Ron Perlman as Batou, but that’s okay, I guess. It’s just that the Major is my all-time favorite character in fiction, and I have almost no familiarity with Johansson.

But I’m sure I’ll be sitting in the movie theatre sometime next summer, and the trailer for this film will gradually reveal itself, and I’ll have a heart attack. I wasn’t concerned at all with Jurassic World until the first good trailer – at which point it became a top priority. I can be easily swayed, fellas. I’m a sucker for this franchise.

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Somebody named “Kuze” is also in the movie. Raises questions

One of the last key personnel we need to know about for this film is the composer. Ghost in the Shell has always had fascinating music, between Kenji Kawaii and Yoko Kanno, with her stable of international voices. I’ll put money down they’ll get Desplat for this one, who was once in a similar league, I’d say.

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