The Hollywood version of Ghost in the Shell is slated to be released next month and I for one am looking forward to it. I wouldn’t call myself a hard core fan of the manga and anime but I loved what I saw in Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex and, after re-watching it with adult eyes, the 1995 anime movie. So, as I do enjoy the original anime, I really do hope the live-action adaption Hollywood is making also meets my expectations. And, from the trailers, it looks like there is a good chance it will.
That doesn’t mean I have my concerns with the upcoming film. It certainly looks different from the ones that I’ve watched. Oh, and not because the people portraying Mokoto Kusanagi and Batou are going to be played by Scarlett Johannson and Pilou Asbaek, two white actors. No, I’m actually not concerned about the “whitewashing” of the cast. I’m actually totally fine with it. I even wrote an entire post as to why Hollywood thought it was a good idea to do this.
No, my biggest concern with the upcoming Hollywood production of Ghost in the Shell is that they’ll rely too much on name recognition and not focus on what made the manga and animes so special. I’m not afraid of the “whitewashing” controversy; I’m more concerned that the film will lose the philosophical aspect that made Ghost in the Shell an exceptional anime.
I already talked about how I enjoyed the original anime film that was released in 1995. But I will confess that, when I watched it when I was younger, I couldn’t understand what the fuss was about. I was a fan of anime at that time (much earlier than most people, thank you). But most of the anime that I watched were either the more silly/lighthearted ones like Ranma 1/2, Tenchi Muyo! and Kimagure Orange Road or the more action oriented kind like Mobile Suit Gundam Wing, The Vision of Escaflowne and Trigun. I was expecting Ghost in the Shell to fall under the more action packed animes like the latter. I was wrong.
There was some action, though. That scene where Mokoto Kusanagi chases that one bad guy was the highlight for me at the time. But I thought the original movie was pretty lame. There wasn’t that much action and it was mostly a lot of talk, especially with the final scene where the Puppet Master (the main “antagonist”) and Mokoto talk about stuff.
What I didn’t understand at the time that Ghost in the Shell was much more than just a futuristic setting filled with cyberpunk themes. No, Ghost in the Shell is much more than that and, as such, it asks more from the viewer. There are a lot of themes and philosophical questions throughout the property and they don’t really attempt to answer them. A lot of the times, it’s left up to the viewer to form their own thoughts and answers to these complex questions.
I finally got a grasp of Ghost in the Shell’s way of thinking when I watched Stand Alone Complex. Even if this was an anime series, they still posed viewers with a lot of really clever and thought provoking scenarios and plots that were just so unique. And, since I matured enough to look at anime in a different way, I really loved Stand Alone Complex as it strived to be much more than your one of the mill animated programs.
After completing the first season, I promptly went to go watch the 1995 again. But this time, I was fully prepared to not just expect it to be a dumb anime with lots of action. I was not ready to listen to the dialogue and fully absorb what the characters were saying and how they were reacting to what was happening. After I finished the film, I was practically kicking myself for hating it before because it was one of the most deep movies I’ve ever watched!
Now, this leads me to my biggest concern with the Hollywood version. Will they have the guts to try to make a movie that tries to be as deep as the anime?
As popular as the anime and manga series is, I really don’t think the casual moviegoer have any idea as to what to expect from a Ghost in the Shell movie. I’d like to think that there are more enlightened movie fans nowadays. There are some really complex films like Inception, 2001: A Space Odyssey and Interstellar that have both been critically and financially successful. But they seem to be more of the exception than the general rule. And I’m not too sure that Hollywood would be willing to make Ghost in the Shell one of the exceptions.
I have a fear that Hollywood won’t risk making something as mind-bendingly smart as the original Ghost in the Shell anime. I’m afraid that they’ll try to make it your ordinary action movie with science fiction themes instead of something that will challenge viewers into really thinking about what it means to be human and what exactly is something that can be considered to be sentient, which are really common themes of the anime and manga.
All of this is currently conjecture on my part. I do hope that Hollywood is smart enough to focus on the philosophical elements of Ghost in the Shell, which is the true meat of the series. I would be totally fine if they made it more action oriented to make it more palatable to the casual movie audience that don’t want to think too hard and just want to have a good time. But I do hope that they also put in the elements that fans of Ghost in the Shell will tend to expect with something that has the name.
Do you think Hollywood needs more movies that ask more from their viewers? Let me know in the comments section below.