Hollywood! Adapt This: GHOST IN THE SHELL

     March 17, 2013


The original plan for today’s Hollywood! Adapt This article went out the window this week as I got sucked into an anime series about bionically-enhanced police officers taking on all manner of cyber-terrorists in a future where it seems that no one is 100% human any longer.  Since this particular series was an outgrowth of an earlier feature anime (which in turn was based on a popular manga), I went back to the original film adaptation to see if a live-action update would be possible.  Hit the jump to find out.  Hollywood! Adapt this: Ghost in the Shell

ghost-in-the-shell-posterWhat It’s About: 

Ghost in the Shell started as a manga series written and illustrated by Masamune Shirow.  Literally translated as “Mobile Armored Riot Police,” the story follows a group of anti-terrorist officers in Public Security Section 9 who are tasked with taking down cyber-terrorists.  The squad is led by series protagonist Major Motoko Kusanagi, who possesses a fully-synthetic cyborg body but retains her human essence/soul or “ghost.”   Kusanagi varies in her appearance whether in the manga, films or TV series, but her abilities as a superior fighter and tactician remain constant, along with the respect and admiration of her fellow officers.

Section 9 is headed up by Daisuke Aramaki who oversees Kusanagi as well as her second-in-command, Bato, and a new recruit, Togusa.  The team goes up against criminals responsible for such cyber-crimes as ghost-hacking: the illegal intrusion into another individual’s brain.  In the 1995 film directed by Mamoru Oshii, Section 9 has orders to bring down a criminal known as the Puppet Master who is suspected to be responsible for ghost-hacking numerous citizens.  The real reason behind the Puppet Master’s intentions is revealed as Kusanagi begins to unravel a plot that involves a foreign nation’s secret illegal experiments and questions as to her own identity which  hovers between human and artificial.

How Could / Why Should It Be Adapted:

There has been an increasing amount of talk about live-action adaptations of anime and manga properties in recent years.  Few of these ever come to fruition and the ones that do are poorly done (see Dragonball: Evolution and Aeon Flux).  Japan has seen some success with live-action anime adaptations in their homegrown market, but the best we’ve seen Stateside is the underrated Speed Racer from the Wachowski siblings.  We’ll have to wait until at least 2017 to see James Cameron’s take on Battle Angel, while Akira remains trapped in development hell.  There was talk years ago of developing Ghost in the Shell as a live-action film, one that would be based more off the manga than the original film.  I’d submit that the 1995 anime sets down the best template for a live-action adaptation, though I’m not familiar with the manga.

I’m not sure why anime adaptations haven’t taken off here in the states; the format seems absolutely ripe for the picking considering the recent and continuing success of comic book movies coupled with the technological ability to put any effect you desire on screen.  Perhaps it’s the appearance of overt sexualization of women in many anime properties (some way more than others) or maybe it’s the fact that there are some mature themes discussed in these properties but people turn up their noses at them, considering them to be “kids’ cartoons” without giving them a chance.

ghost in the shellIn my mind, there are two ways of adapting Ghost in the Shell: treat it like the studios did the Totall Recall remake and make it into a sci-fi actioner, or keep it as a character-driven story with sci-fi action elements, closer to Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner.  (Two guesses on which one I prefer.)  Central to the story of Ghost in the Shell is the nature of Kusanagi’s mind and her internal debate over whether she retains any of her humanity or has been fully transformed into an artificial being.  There are manifestations of that conflict all around her in the environment of the film: fellow cyborgs who appear as normal humans but must undergo routine maintenance for their various cybernetic parts, dolls who also appear human but lack a ghost to give them free will and even robots who begin to take on increasingly human characteristics.  In an age where technology and biology are becoming more and more intertwined, a Ghost in the Shell reboot would be a well-timed commentary on the state of biotech going forward.

The Final Word: 

With Jose Padilha’s RoboCop reboot due to come out in less than a year, maybe androids and cybernetic systems will become the new cinematic trend.  Furthermore, a new anime series, Ghost in the Shell: Arise, will put the series back in the spotlight later this year; perhaps someone will have the foresight to move on a live-action adaptation.  Long-time readers of this site know that we have an adoration for actor/MMA fighter Gina Carano and we cast her for pretty much every female action role across the board, but I still think she’d be perfect for Kusanagi (though I’d expect someone like Evangeline Lilly or Kate Beckinsale to be floated for the part).  We’ll see how much room she gets to show off her acting chops (without dialogue replacement) in Fast & Furious 6 due out this May.

Check out this (unfortunately cheesy) NSFW trailer for Ghost in the Shell below:

Be sure to tune in next week when we tackle another animated property, this one from the brilliant Genndy Tartakovsky…but which one will it be?

ghost in the shell

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