Reality Check: Ghost in the Shell Will Be Another Generic Action Movie

By  · Published on January 7th, 2015

Ghost in the Shell Tank Scene

Bandai Visual Company

For those excited for a robust, live-action version of Ghost in the Shell, I’ve got some bad news for you. The announcement of Scarlett Johannson signing on to star is a sign that this thing is a bit more real than it was before, but it’s destined to look a lot more like Aeon Flux than Blade Runner, and there’s a simple reason for that.

Saying, “I want to make a live-action version of Ghost in the Shell” is a lot like saying, “I want to make The Matrix.” It requires an unbelievable cocktail of skill, sci-fi understanding, nuance, innovation and luck. The filmmakers involved would need to be at the top of their game as well as be dedicated to focusing on existential issues even after the bullet casings hit the floor.

Instead, we’re getting Avi Arad and Steven Paul. Arad has been involved in the superhero resurgence since EPing Blade in 1998, and while he’s been successful at being involved with immensely popular genre stories, he’ll never be mistaken for a profound filmmaker. You don’t even want to look at Paul’s resume (unless you love Baby Geniuses).

On the directing side you have Rupert Sanders, a relatively untested artist who made Snow White and the Huntsman better and more popular than it had any right to be. His take on “Black Hole” also showed a lot of promise, but, again, he doesn’t have a history of tackling complex ideas and weaving them into the action. That’s the bottom line here. No one involved in the project has shown even a brief stint in dabbling with the kind of bigthink concepts that Ghost in the Shell stews in. This project has the smell of generic, in-name-only adaptation all over it.

After all, we’re talking about a movie whose climax is a dialogue (monologue?) that dissects the meaning of mortality and identity in a digitally connected world. Is there any chance that will survive the studio notes when action figures are on the brain? Highly unlikely. Instead, fresh off of Lucy, we’re going to get a version of the story that’s not for fans of Ghost in the Shell, but for those who thought it was too slow and confusing.

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