Why Ghost In The Shell Will Be Better Than You Think

In a world dominated by sequels, prequels, and superheroes, the live-action Ghost in the Shell is looking to make a big splash. This is a big-budget, star-studded adaptation of one of the greatest anime movies of all time, but some fans have been hesitant about whether it will be any good. Some people fret over the controversial casting of Scarlett Johansson, while others worry the vision of the original anime director will be compromised by the Hollywood machine. However, there are plenty of reasons this movie is going to be so much better than everyone thinks. And you don't need an invisibility suit to find out what they are...just keep reading!

The amazing costume design

One of the things that made the original Ghost in the Shell manga and anime so iconic was its costume design. Despite taking place in a familiar and recognizable world, the comic, original movie, and its anime sequels helped establish the cyberpunk aesthetic, one that would later be echoed by Hollywood in prominent movies like The Matrix. Of course, now that Ghost in the Shell is being adapted into a live-action film, the challenge becomes how to design costumes and clothing that faithfully adapt the anime aesthetic without seeming like a carbon copy of the outfits Neo, Morpheus, and Trinity wear.

Thankfully, the trailers have made it abundantly clear that the costume design by Kurt and Bart is top-notch. Scarlett Johansson's Major looks perfect, whether she's in her muted standard clothes or her tight uniform that helps make her invisible. And the Major's enemies look perfect, too, including a brightly-colored geisha robot whose clothing contrasts perfectly with its not-quite-human face, allowing it to straddle the uncanny valley. All in all, it looks like Ghost in the Shell's costumes will do an amazing job of transporting viewers from their world to somewhere different and dangerous.

The incredible music

When it comes to the original Ghost in the Shell movie, many fans remember the haunting music. Whether it was setting up scene transitions or serving as a backdrop for the Major's soul-searching, the music was an absolutely vital element that helped bring everything together. Fortunately, the new Ghost in the Shell movie managed to get Clint Mansell as a composer. Mansell has a diverse background, having been the lead singer of a pop band before he started composing beautiful music for cerebral movies such as Pi and Requiem for a Dream. Like Ghost in the Shell, each of those movies was concerned with questions of reality, identity, and the role of personal narrative in discovering who we really are. And just as Mansell brought those worlds to vivid and distinctive life, his music will help Ghost in the Shell's bleak beauty transcend the screen and stay with viewers long after the credits have rolled.

The casting of Scarlett Johansson

The casting of Scarlett Johansson ignited quite a bit of controversy about the phenomenon of whitewashing in Hollywood (more on that in a minute). However, a simple glance at Johansson's extensive acting resume shows that she has the perfect background to pull off this role. For instance, she inhabited a cyberpunk world in the 2005 movie The Island. She established her credentials as a badass martial artist and gun expert by portraying Black Widow in five different Marvel movies. And, in perhaps her most pertinent role, she starred in Lucy, a movie about a woman who gains special powers and uses them to fight mob bosses in exotic locales such as Taiwan, all while learning about what it means to be truly human. Playing Lucy was basically Johansson's trial run for the Major, and the actress carried Luc Besson's sci-fi flick to great financial success. So the chances are pretty good that she'll excel at revisiting this kind of character in Ghost in the Shell.

The upside of controversy

The casting of Scarlett Johansson as the Major put Ghost in the Shell in the middle of the ongoing battle over Hollywood "whitewashing." Basically, this is where characters who were clearly not white in their original incarnations are later played by white actors. This happened with Goku in Dragonball: Evolution, and more recently, with the character of the Ancient One in Doctor Strange. Thus, some people took an instant dislike to the idea of Johansson playing a character who was meant to be Japanese in the original manga and anime.

In a weird way, however, this casting controversy is going to help both the movie and our understanding of the story. Some of the major themes of the original manga and anime concerned questions of identity and humanity. It echoed the classic "Ship of Theseus" thought experiment, a paradox that questions whether something (like a ship) would still be fundamentally the same if every single part of it were replaced. Because the Major has her original mind placed into a robotic body, she must constantly question if this has changed who she is on a fundamental level. So if the film version features a Japanese mind placed inside a Caucasian body, then we'll get some nice symbolic imagery regarding the Major's ongoing struggle to discover who she "really" is.

An exciting origin story

Fans of superhero films often lament about Tinseltown's constant need to focus on a character's origin story. This is mostly because origin tales are usually pretty simplistic and, in many cases, have been told ad nauseam. For instance, you can only see Bruce Wayne's parents die on-screen so many times before you want to track down a Hollywood executive and scream, "Okay, we get it!"

Similarly, the trailers for Ghost in the Shell indicate the film may focus on the Major's origin, and surprisingly enough, that's a reason to get excited. Why? Well, the Major is a character we know very little about, especially in terms of her background. Despite the fact that the original manga started coming out in the late 1980s—and later inspired three films and two separate anime TV series—we still know almost nothing about the Major's early life or cybernetic transformation. The trailers for the live-action movie indicate this will be something the film explores, which means that after nearly two decades, we may finally get some answers about this complex character.

It will lead to more awesome adaptations

One of the reasons that Ghost in the Shell is going to be great is that it will almost certainly result in more big-budget, well-cast, live-action adaptations of anime series. Historically, Western adaptations of anime have either been terrible (such as the awful Dragonball: Evolution movie) or overlooked (like the amazing Speed Racer movie that failed to find traction with both critics and audiences, becoming more of a cult classic). If a high-profile adaptation of a legendary anime movie is actually successful, then we may finally get live-action versions of stories like Akira, Trigun, or Cowboy Bebop that are actually worth watching.

It has the original director's approval

When someone comes along and tries to adapt a work of art—something with a unique vision and voice—fans always worry this new filmmaker will screw things up. How can a remake live up to the quality of the original? It's a legitimate fear, but fortunately, when it comes to the new Ghost in the Shell, the movie has the highest seal of approval. As it turns out, the original director loves it.

In a 2016 promo, director Mamoru Oshii seemed to have nothing but praise for the new film. Specifically, he said that Scarlett Johansson "has gone above and beyond my expectations for the role." The director also claimed that Rupert Sanders's remake "will be the most gorgeous film in the series so far." This is the highest praise possible, and it comes from the one person who might be most critical of someone else tampering with his vision. Fingers crossed that Oshii's excitement means this movie will be something unforgettable.

The impressive set design

Similar to the incredible costumes, Ghost in the Shell's set design, as glimpsed in the trailers, looks amazing. As the Major peers over her city, Batman-style, we see a world (designed by Jan Roelfs) that looks like a beautiful mash-up of Blade Runner and Star Wars. Later scenes highlight the dystopian Apple Store aesthetics of chambers where robot bodies are created, contrasted by moments of claustrophobia as the Major starts peeling back the curtain at the edges of her world. Ultimately, the set design does a perfect job of emphasizing that the Major and her allies occupy a world that is both familiar and very different from anything we've seen before.

There's a built-in universe

One of the strange side effects of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and its box-office dominance is that almost every blockbuster movie has become concerned with "world-building." Sometimes, this is simply to make a fantasy world seem tangible and real (think about the lengths Game of Thrones goes to in order to bring to life everything from food to fashion), but more often than not, it's to flesh things out for future sequels, prequels, and spin-offs.

And when it comes to creating a new universe, Ghost in the Shell has a pretty big advantage over other popcorn flicks. In short, this movie doesn't need to engage in much world-building. That's because much of the Major's world has been fleshed out over almost 20 years of manga and anime. The world is already firmly established, allowing the filmmakers to simply concentrate on bringing to life the most exciting and intriguing parts of the series. This means we'll get the Major in all of her butt-kicking glory, but without the distracting, sequel-building elements that were arbitrarily thrown into films like The Amazing Spider-Man 2. And we all know how well that worked out for poor Peter Parker...

The eye-catching filming locations

One of the most striking elements of the original Ghost in the Shell movie is its sense of place. Most of the action occurs in the fictional "New Port City" of Japan, but the vivid art helps to make the metropolis seem like a real location. The new Ghost in the Shell looks like it's recreating that feeling by shooting on location in places such as Hong Kong, Shanghai, and New Zealand. Not only does this offer a chance for beautiful and diverse scenes, but it means the movie will probably simulate the feeling of a fictional world that's adjacent to our own. This is the hallmark of any good cyberpunk film (a la The Matrix), and it will add one more exciting layer to a movie that's all about discovery, reality, and identity. And if there's anything that will make a Ghost in the Shell movie great, it's a soul-searching protagonist navigating a breathtaking world that feels otherworldly yet oddly recognizable at the same exact time.