In 1995, Masamune Shirow’s mind-bending anime fantasy Ghost in the Shell rocketed out of Japan, and was met with universal acclaim.
The anime envisions a nightmarish dystopia, where the line between humanity and artificial intelligence has become totally blurred.
The film focuses on Major, a cyborg policewoman working for Hanka Robotics, who is tasked with apprehending a sinister hacker known as the Puppet Master – who can ‘ghost hack’ into people’s minds.
Now, Hollywood heavyweights Scarlett Johansson, Michael Pitt and director Richard Sanders, have taken on the daunting task of delivering on the expectations of the anime fanboys around the world.
However, if the film’s first full-length trailer is anything to go by, they might just have nailed it.
Visually, the film is on point. The trailer retains a lot of the anime’s staggering imagery. Towering skyscrapers, Matrix-style body plugs and robots with featureless, Action Man-smooth bodies are all in evidence.
There are also some nice original flourishes.The prominent use of gigantic, three-dimensional advertisements as looming backdrops to kinetic action sequences are both visually astonishing and totally uncanny.
There’s less to say about the plot, which Sanders is keeping tightly under wraps. But from what we can glean, the director has ditched the anime’s Puppet Master plot, in favour of roping in Boardwalk Empire’s Michael Pitt to play original villain Kuze – a terrorist seeking to wipe out Hanka’s advanced cyber technology.
Our only real concern now is whether Johansson has a bit too much warmth and humanity about her to deliver in the callous and inhumane role of Major.
It remains to be seen, but if ScarJo’s latest string of sci-fi successes prove anything, it’s that she’s absolutely unafraid to embrace anything weird and worrying, with brilliant, and sometimes unnerving results.