There’s a huge problem at the center of Ghost in the Shell. You already knew that, though. You’ve heard about the whitewashing controversy and the problems of co-opting Asian culture for western audiences. But as bad as you might have heard that whitewashing problem is, it’s even worse. It’s impossible to discuss the movie’s troubled treatment of identity politics without spoiling some big reveals, but before we get into those, there are plenty of other things that make the live-action remake a disappointment.
The Americanized remake of anime classic Ghost in the Shell finally crashes into theaters this Friday, like a bodysuit-clad Scarlett Johansson bursting through a glass window, guns blazing. While Paramount has managed to delay advance reviews by cancelling many press screenings (which is, traditionally, a bad sign), that has done little to deter the fans’ many burning questions. What secrets are being hidden from Major Motoko Kusanagi, and by whom? What are the tactical advantages of clothes that appear to be made of shrink-wrap? Will the movie be racist, and if so, how racist is it going to be? Why is English trip-hop musician Tricky in the film? Truly, The Ghost in the Shell is rich with secrets.
One thing’s for sure about the new Ghost in the Shell movie: There’s gonna be a whole lot of cyber. Cybercrime, cyber-people, there all is cyber. The plot hinges around, among other things, an android with a human mind investigating a string of brain-hacking crimes that leads her to a bunch of realizations about the nature of consciousness and humanity. Ghost in the Shell imagines a world where the line between human and machine is blurred almost to the point of nonexistence, with corporations selling body-augmentation technology amongst colleagues at fancy dinners. That’s where the opening of the movie finds Major, played by Scarlett Johansson, surveilling a corporate meeting that goes terribly wrong.
The whitewashing controversy surrounding Ghost in the Shell may keep it from becoming 2017’s big box office hit, despite how faithfully the filmmakers have recreated some of the most visually-arresting scenes from the 1995 original. It’s a bummer that Motoko Kusanagi is now Mara Killian because the movie looks absolutely gorgeous, as evidenced in this new clip, which takes its cues directly from an iconic scene in the original.
Now that March is officially part of the summer movie season, the deluge of blockbuster marketing has started earlier than ever. We used to be able to wait until the summer to comb through a batch of brand new television spots for new footage from upcoming releases; instead, with Ghost in the Shell landing at the end of this month, we’re being treated to the same escalating series of theatrical trailers and short television spots. No wonder the climate seems to be changing so rapidly: if Mother Nature gets her news from basic cable, she’d be forgiven for thinking it’s almost Fourth of July weekend.
Blockbuster movie season is officially upon us, kicking off this week with the release of Logan and continuing all month long with a flurry of major (no pun intended) titles: Beauty and the Beast, Kong: Skull Island, and, last but far from least, Ghost in the Shell — the live-action remake starring Scarlett Johansson, who has surprisingly (but delightfully) become the queen of sci-fi. We’re unlikely to get a new trailer between now and the end of March, but how about some new motion posters to help you get acquainted with the film’s cast of characters?
The government is not to be trusted, not at present and certainly not in the trippy future Japan of Ghost in the Shell. Major Motoko Kusanagi (Scarlett Johansson) has been led to believe that she endured some manner of terrible accident in life, and the police department salvaged her body by augmenting it with cybernetic implants. In exchange for a second chance at consciousness, all she has to do is devote herself to fearlessly cleaning the street of crime and to surrender what’s left of her free will; naturally, she has some doubts about this. And when she meets an enigmatic stranger warning her that all is not what it seems, her whole understanding of who the bad guys are starts to shift.
Two movies steeped in the very same kind of controversy are about to hit theaters: The Great Wall, whose casting of Matt Damon in the lead role of a movie ostensibly about a fantastical spin on Chinese history is laughable at best, and Ghost in the Shell, which cast Scarlett Johanssen in a role that is, for all intents and purposes, a Japanese woman. Well, robot-woman. Both sets of actors from both films have tried their best to find ways around this whitewashing issue, with many involved in The Great Wall calling it a “cross-cultural” story of “an outsider.” Johanssen recently addressed accusations of whitewashing leveled at her own movie, and unfortunately she doesn’t really get it.
Ah, the Super Bowl: the one magical night each year in which the nation unites under the binding forces of domestic macrobrewed beer, buffalo chicken wings, and good ol’ American football. Everyone’s got something to enjoy at the big game, whether that’s the competition itself or, for those of us unable to enjoy sporting events due to PTSD over a childhood of getting picked last, trailers for a movie in which Scarlett Johansson plays a sexy police robot. The Super Bowl regularly doubles as the premiere for a handful of brand new previews of upcoming blockbusters, and Paramount has done us all the solid of giving us a three-day jump on the fun.
Before Scarlett Johansson launched a thousand essays by taking on the role of Motoko Kusanagi, the cybernetic crimefighter was nothing more than a drawing. The original Ghost in the Shell anime debuted in 1995 and blew audiences away with its futuristic cyberpunk aesthetic, influencing everything from The Matrix to the Star Wars prequels. In the film, the robotic government agent cuts through the dystopian world of 2029 in search of the Puppet Master, a sentient computer virus taking over human hosts and causing havoc. The film’s flashy Hollywood remake is only a couple months away on March 31, but before that, the original will infiltrate theaters in a special engagement.