Ghost in the Shell Global Launch Party
It's not very often a film company whisks us off to Tokyo for the launch of a Hollywood movie, but Ghost in the Shell is no average film project. Dogged by controversy and a history of somewhat mediocre anime to film adaptations, GITS has had an uphill struggle to win audiences over to its reimagining of the franchise. However, after seeing director Rupert Sanders speak passionately about the franchise at the launch, we have our fingers crossed that this remake has the potential to filter what made the original so fascinating into a Hollywood movie with widespread appeal.
In Tokyo, NEO and a group of other journalists from around the world were whisked through the streets to an exclusive space where we were able to see props and costumes from the movie before anyone else. (See our Facebook page for some live streaming of the props). The highlight of the event was seeing director Rupert Sanders, and actors Takeshi Kitano and Scarlett Johansson quizzed for around ten minutes each live on stage. Before all that, though, we were treated to the incredible sight of the new shelling sequence for the first time, accompanied by Kenji Kawai on the drums, providing percussion for his original score.
"I think really, one of the first things we wanted to do when we launched the film was come to the birthplace of the film to show both the creators, the people who really started the whole thing going, that we were taking this next chapter of this legacy very seriously, and it wasn't going to be something they'd be upset about - they be very proud of," said Sanders, of his decision to launch the film in Tokyo. "So it was important for us to come here, and say this is what we've done, this is what we're doing. We're not remaking, we're reimagining, but we're doing it with you, alongside you." (See Sanders' entire interview on NEO's Facebook page.)
Takeshi Kitano was interviewed next. Kitano is well known for having no real love for manga and anime, so the first question about whether we was a fan of Ghost in the Shell, was met with a long pause. "When this animation was created, at that time I did I did see that it was nice project, compared to others, which I’d been kind of turned off by. It’s a pleasure to play Aramaki. Looking at him in the animation, he’s sort of miserable. He doesn’t look nice. So I consulted with the make-up artist and co-ordinator and I think my make-up as Aramaki is a success." He also added, "I’ve had a little glimpse of the film and it looks amazing. I think I could make a hundred movies with this movie’s budget, but that’s what Hollywood is about. I was very moved by the make-up, special effects, design of the figures. Because I think movies are an art form of a lot of things and I was very amazed and I’m very pleased to be a part of this wonderful project."
Finally, Scarlett Johansson took to the stage. Of her familiarity with Ghost in the Shell she said, "I didn't know the material. When the script came to me, it also came with a copy of the anime and you know when I first saw it, it seemed quite daunting, I think because you know the anime is so philosophical and I didn't know how it would exactly translate to a live action film or really what I could contribute to it exactly. But it was alluring. Definitely alluring." (See Johansson's entire interview on NEO's Facebook page.)
From the launch and the various pieces of footage we weren't allowed to film, here's what we've learned about the movie. 1) The film seems to have shifted from a philosophical exploration of what it means to be human, to the Major's journey of self-discovery. Her creation as a cyborg appears to have come after her death as a fully-fledged human, and she has no memories of what had come before. There are dark hints that Hanka, the company that created her shell, may have been behind her death. 2) The team behind the movie, including Mamoru Oishii and Kenji Kamiyama, amongst others, see this as part of the canon of GITS, and another instalment in the franchise's story, rather than a reboot. In much the same way that the concept has been altered for the original movie from the manga, or the Stand Alone Complex, this is another new take on the existing shell of the story. 3) The Major's sapphic tendencies seem to have made it into the story, although perhaps not to the extent of Masamune Shirow's wildest imaginings. 4) There's a mix of influences from throughout the GITS canon, the most obvious being the geisha robots from the trailer and the exhibition, which were taken from Ghost in the Shell: Innocence. 5) The team have remade the shelling sequence that was so iconic in the original, in its entirety, thanks to some help from Weta Workshop. Whether this will make it to the movie intact is another question, but seeing this over the top of the opening credits would be an absolutely incredible way to start the movie. 6) Accusations of whitewashing have dogged the production, and this is very much a global remake of the movie, which emphasises a global cast. There's even a quirk by which Takeshi Kitano speaks his native Japanese throughout, whilst the other characters respond in English. Perhaps this decision was meant to deflect criticism somewhat, but it's still a stylish and futuristic addition to the movie which gives depth to its setting. Of his lines, Kitano said "[...] This is a Hollywood movie and they wanted me to speak English. I said I didn’t really want to speak English – I said that because I can’t speak English, actually. I was told I could speak in Japanese. But then I also told them I can’t really memorise lines and I need a prompter. And I also said that I can’t really read… I made all these complaints! But I was very moved. Scarlett Johannson, who plays the lead, held up my cue-cards. I wanted to get a picture of it but I just had to remember instead."
Ghost in the Shell launches in March 2017 from Paramount Pictures.
Click the image below to be taken to our high-res Flickr album, containing images of all the props and costumes at the launch.
Our huge thanks to Owen Williams for the transcription of Takeshi Kitano's interview.