The latest cinematic version of iconic Japanese manga ‘Ghost In The Shell’ sees Scarlett Johansson starring in the lead role of Rupert Saunders’ live-action adaptation.
For those unfamiliar with the ‘Ghost In The Shell’ franchise, the series is set in a futuristic world where technology is so advanced that cyborgs are commonplace and everyone’s brain is interconnected through the Internet. This allows for instant access to information and communication, but also leaves human brains open to being hacked by cyber criminals (known in the film as ‘ghost-hacking’) allowing said hackers to control human brains and change, delete and invent memories. The story follows a counter-cyberterrorist organisation called Section 9 tasked with preventing these crimes.
Yahoo Movies was invited down to the New Zealand set to find out a little more about what fans can expect come its release in March 2017.
1. It’s not just a remake of the 1995 anime
Fans nervous about Hollywood remaking the iconic 1995 anime should rest easy. Everyone we spoke to were obviously pretty tight-lipped on any specific plot details, but filmmakers told us that the new movie mixes a number of ideas and stories from the huge bank of mangas, films and TV series’ to create a slightly different narrative.
Producer Ari Arad told us that when they first started getting the rights for the adaptation, the creators themselves suggested they blend multiple stories rather than focusing on one. As a result, the team decided to tell their own story of ‘Ghost In The Shell’ with the expectation that it felt like the source material.
“Part of it is hopefully going to be dreamy, emotional or philosophical like the movies and the manga, but also a really fast western narrative spine in series one and two that we are borrowing,” Arad explained.
As far as plot goes, producer Michael Costigan gave us his unofficial synopsis for the movie:
“It’s an active story in the middle of the world of Section 9 and The Major. It’s also an origins story and very much an awakening for several characters. You are both immersed in it from the beginning, but it’s also an awakening and a questioning of ‘what am I?’, ‘who am I?’ in the middle of a very active story.”
2. It’s not just an origins story either
Fans of ‘Spider-Man’ probably know this problem more than most. No-one really wants to find out how the characters got to where they are in every movie. ‘Ghost In The Shell’ will explore much more than simply introducing the characters.
“The big thing we are doing here is that we’re not necessarily doing an origins backstory,” Arad told us.
“We are addressing her sense of self and resolving how she defines herself in terms of memories. That’s one of the main thrusts in the story.
“It’s inspired by that episode of ‘Affection’ in Second Gig. It’s bits and pieces of those mixed together.“
3. It should feel like the anime
It’s always tough to transfer the look and feel of an anime/manga into a live-action version thanks to the sharp angles, vivid colours and OTT features in the source material. But producer Ari Arad feels like they’ve got it right for ‘Ghost In The Shell’.
“There are a lot of aesthetic elements that come from the anime. Our cinematographer went through ‘Ghost In The Shell’ and ‘Ghost In The Shell: Innocence’ and picked out 28 colour keys. Every lighting set up we have is an amalgamation of those 28 colours. Hopefully the film feels like the anime.”
Having seen a sea of production photography on set, we can confirm that the team has done a great job of re-imagining the aesthetic of the anime into real life. The colour palettes, style and cinematography are all clearly influenced by the 1995 cult classic.
At the very least, it will be a beautiful looking movie.
4. Iconic moments will feature
Arad revealed that, much like the anime, the finale of the movie is the scene where The Major fights a giant spider tank.
We got a sneak peek at the scene, getting the chance to walk onto the stage and look around. It was a futuristic street with stairs leading up to an elevated walkway. The street was littered with rubble, shrapnel, bits of broken cars and a few spots of fire giving the indication of a pretty robust action scene.
Arad told us that the scene sticks relatively closely to the anime in that it’s raining and The Major is thermoptic (her thermoptic suit enables her to be invisible) so it should evoke the same cool factor as the one fans already know.
Similarly, the ‘garbage man’ and ‘interrogation’ scenes also made it into the script, but the team didn’t want to go into too much detail.
“Everything we pulled from the movie is because we thought it was cool”, Arad told us.
5. They are not trying to cram everything into one movie
Filmmakers explained that some elements of the source material haven’t made it into the movie for various reasons.
The film’s designer revealed the Fuchikomas won’t feature in this adaptation. He explained that the plot is going to focus on The Major trying to discover who she is and including the Fuchikomas might have been a bit detracting.
The green scrolling data has also been scrapped, mainly due to the fact that audiences have already seen something (ahem) very similar in ‘The Matrix’ series. However producer Ari Arad assured us that they have replaced it with something “really cool”.
Similarly, the ability for robots to split their fingers into more fingers while typing doesn’t feature in the new movie as it didn’t really seem to make sense in real life.
6. Producers are pushing rating guidelines to the limit
Blockbuster movies receiving PG13/12A certificates had become disappointingly predictable up until ‘Deadpool’ came and smashed box office records with a 15/R comic book movie.
‘Ghost In The Shell’ producer Michael Costigan confirmed that the team is expecting a PG13/12A certificate for the movie (although that will ultimately be decided by other stakeholders).
However, Costigan was adamant that any rating wouldn’t affect the quality of the movie. He referenced the amount of violence and graphic scenes ‘The Dark Knight’ got away with even though it was classed as a 12A. He suggested that using fantasy to get around the tight restrictions is something they have applied to ‘Ghost In The Shell’.
“It’s definitely going to ride the edge,” he said. “We thought it was better to make the right movie the way it’s supposed to be. We want to love it and we want the fans to love it so we have to go for it.”
Ari Arad added that “the rating and the choices we are making dovetail, but not necessarily driving each other.”
7. Fans are helping make the movie
Having spoken to a wide range of the team including producers, cast members, designers, special effects etc, one thing they all had in common was a sheer admiration for the source material. They all wanted to pay homage to the original manga and the 1995 anime movie and get it right.
Most importantly, unlike traditional marketing spin, these guys really meant it. You could feel the passion and love for this project.
In addition, the team has rather cleverly brought in the most passionate fans to help and advise on aspects of the film. For example, Ash Thorp, a tumblr user who made the much loved ‘Project 2501’ is involved. His live action version of the iconic credit sequence from the anime is widely regarded as a brilliant example of how to recreate anime in live action.
We were shown a very early, raw version of the ‘shelling sequence’ for this film and it was similar in tone to the sensational ‘Project 2501’.
So that certainly bodes well.
8. There is logic behind Scarlett Johansson’s casting as The Major
Back in early 2015, the casting of Scarlett Johansson as The Major certainly got a mixed reaction. Commentators questioned the decision to cast a Caucasian actor in a role historically assumed to be an Asian character.
According to the filmmakers, the plan was to set the film in a city of the future where many cultures collide. Therefore it makes sense that the people living there are from all parts of the world AND that members of Section 9 (the law enforcement squad at the centre of the story) are international too.
The cast is made up of actors from around the globe. For example, members of Section 9 are played by actors from USA, United Kingdom, Denmark, Zimbabwe, Singapore to name but a few.
This multicultural theme is an unexpected departure from the source material’s Japanese setting and led to the confusion surrounding Johansson.
‘Ghost In The Shell’ is due to be released in March 2017.