Ghost In The Shell
I know I'm early, but the squee factor was too high. This Manga and anime' series was easily as seminal in modern pop anime culture as "Akira" was.
(warning for prudes, there is some very slight "artistic" female nudity in the animated stuff, here and there, for a couple of seconds. Deal with it. Or click away now).
That's an American promo trailer from some time ago, the clip below gives a better idea of the anime', and contains scenes that have been re-created in the new movie.
It's a fusion of cyberpunk shoot-em-up action and spy intrigue, combined with long moments of existential philosophical musings on the nature of the Self, of what comprises consciousness. The trailers so far capture a LOT of the look and style and even specific shot compositions from the anime' series and animated full-length movie.
If you have zero background on the stories, here's a synopsis. Matoko Kusanagi was born with a degenerative malady that would kill her in early childhood, but her brain was unaffected, and as a desperate experiment, her brain was transferred into a cybernetic robot body. In the time period of the movie, human-looking robots are pretty common, but they lack the spark of self-awareness, a "soul" or, as they translate it from Japanese, a "ghost". Cybernetic body modifications and limb replacements are also common; many people are blends of man and machine, but Kusanagi is the most extreme version of this: a mind that can be plugged into any robotic body and thus take on any external identity needed, from small child to old man to casual street walker model, her usual choice, though under the sex-worker outer shell the internal workings are upgraded to military standards of performance for speed, strength, agility, etc. Even a skin that can turn into camouflage. Perfect for undercover work, which is what she does as an agent and hacker for Military Intelligence, until she leaves that service to work for a secret government unit dedicated to state cybersecurity and counter-terrorism, called Special Section Nine. Her team mates include agents with various body modifications, some mild, some almost as extreme as her own. The Section Nine team is sometimes aided in combat by a set of A.I.-infused robotic spider-tanks, who speak with incongruous, synthetic little-girl voices, even as they blaze away with high-powered guns. Thru the anime and movies, Major Kusanagi fights terrorists, crime syndicates, corporate oligarchs, and rogue elements in her own government, sometimes sanctioned, sometimes, not. Thru it all, she struggles to come to terms with her own identity, trying to decide what part of her "self" is really human.
There was angst in the fanboy community that ScarJo was cast for the Kusanagi role instead of an Asian actress. So far, though, from just looking at the trailers, they seem to have really grabbed the essence of the look and feel, and the original Major always looked pretty "Western" to me, anyway. For some reason, the new movie never seems to mention Motoko's name, only caller her "the major". Must be a marketing thing. The question really is, how will audiences relate to shoot em up sequences interspersed with kabuki-like still scenes where nobody moves and the characters have internal monologues for minutes at a time?
Or did they cut that from this version? Have to wait and see. Bit I don't want to wait.
This looks pretty rad. I saw the trailer for it for the first time in front of Fantastic Beasts. I was pretty sold on it, without really knowing anything about it (I think the only animes I've ever seen are Fist of the North Star, Akira, and Ninja Scroll [all of which I enjoyed]), but I get the idea/appeal of anime and clips other people show me from them are usually pretty cool.
Speaking of cool clip, I liked the side by side clip you linked there, it looks like they're actually trying to do this adaptation some justice! Looks like anime movies gets better treatment than most (if not all) video game adaptations get.
Five minute clip
OKAY, so the movie is out now.
I would rate it two ways: If you're not at all familiar with the property or the background, it's a 5 out of 5. If you're a manga/anime otaku type who has followed the stories and films for decades, you'd probably rate it 4 out of 5.
The art direction, cinematography and editing are outstanding. The leads and secondary actors are great. They've tampered with Kusanagi's origin story and made the movie about her origin, which is no doubt due to the studios being shy and cautious about avoiding the talk-heavy, philosophy-heavy, more cerebral plot lines of the anime films. They were afraid Cletus in Flyover Country would get too confused by 120 minutes of existentialist debate, with some random gun violence, and switched it up to make it a more simple "Hero-with-amnesia" plotline. The originals don't actually bother all that much with the major's origins and just launch her into bigger stories as a fait accompli.
For all of that, the main ideas and plots of the familiar manga and anime series still survive underneath, more or less. And the overall evocation of the futuristic setting is dead-on. The level of detail in every shot pushes sensory overload; this is one of those movies like Valerian and Fifth Element and Avatar, that you'll end up step-framing thru once you get the BluRay.
As far as the complaints of "Whitewashing", the movie itself addresses Kusanagi's ethnic identity in a practical and offhand way that should dismiss most concerns in this area.
Definitely see this one in 3-d. it was designed for it from the beginning, and the extra immersion adds to the fun of walking around in Motoko's futuristic world. Here's hoping for a sequel that dives deeper into the harder themes next time, but the movie we got is a good beginning.
I saw this a couple of weeks ago, and unfortunately... I didn't love it....
Now, I thought just about everything technical about the movie was *awesome*; from its special effects, to its production design and costumes, to its soundtrack, to its action choreography, to its general aesthetic. I was never not fascinated at looking at the giant advertisements they showed around the city twenty-five times throughout the movie. But the story just never really grabbed on to my attention and held it. I can only assume that the original is much, much better; and if anything, this made me want to check out the anime to see why it had such a huge cult following.
The way they have this remake now, it felt like a really simple story that they tried to create the illusion of complexity with, which made it feel dragged out, maybe? I don't know. I definitely dug everything about this movie except the story. I guess I can admire it more as a great piece of digital art.
This property was cutting-edge cyberpunk when it came out 20+ years ago. The landscape today takes what was once cutting-edge for granted as unoriginal. That's one strike against the movie; if you feel like you've seen all this before, this was the source for the various cyberpunk motif's you've experienced.
The part that's more "evergreen" is the physical violence and constant betrayals and counter-betrayals. It may be that the very thing that spooked the studios so much they excised it from the live-action - the philosophical cyber-navel-gazing about individuality and identity - was something this version needed MORE of.
If you want a good, orienting taste of the GItS universe in anime, an easy place to jack-in would be the ARISE series of prequels, volumes 1 thru 3 would be enough - then try the full-length 1995 theatrical anime movie, and the "Stand-Alone Complex" TV series. These are available to stream on Amazon Prime.
I think the Theatrical version is going to build a slow but steady following over time. if they make a sequel, I'm hoping it follows the "Laughing Man" plot line - this is a story idea that still feels contemporary.