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Ghost in the Shell Live Action

Can 2017's Ghost in the Shell Live Action Movie Shrug Off Ghosts of the Original?

Japanese movies have a wonderful habit of ebbing and flowing in and out of our consciousness, sometimes emerging from nowhere to smack us in the face and then seeping back into Japanese culture far away from the silver screen of the western world and Hollywood. This can happen when new versions of Japanese originals are made with a Hollywood, big-budget twist.

“Westernising” Classic Movies

Take The Magnificent Seven as an example. This movie originally started life as a 1960s Japanese movie called Seven Samurai, and it involved a lot less Western gunslinging! The two movies were obviously different, but the themes from the original were carried through, and simply made more comprehensible for Western audiences more familiar with the image of a cowboy on the screen than a samurai - at the time, at least.

This trend of “Westernising” films happened again with 2002 horror movie The Ring, which became popular long after the Japanese version seriously scared cinema audiences, and now the challenge is on for filmmakers to convert anime films into Western blockbusters with the release of Ghost in the Shell, a remake of the original anime smash hit - one of the most iconic ever, and certainly one of the most watched, even by those uninitiated to anime in general.

The Original Film: Asking Serious Questions

The original film was released as a wonderful example of sci-fi anime giving a philosophical view on how technology could have an impact on humanity in the future. When the film was released in 1995, this was an on-trend idea, as computers, the internet, and mobile phones were all entirely different concepts to how we know them today. Questions and concerns about how technology would evolve were a serious part of public consciousness, and particularly so in Japan, a leading hub for improvements and advancements in technology.

The anime images of the original were visually startling, and have had application since in popular culture far and wide. This has ranged from licensed clothing to posters and action figures. Of course, there were video games, too, including a Playstation title in 1997 and a much more recent team-based shooter First Assault Online, based on the Stand Alone Complex follow up. A surprising addition to the franchise's wide reach is an online slot game, with 888casino’s Ghost in the Shell slot offering anime fans five reels and nine active paylines, but also appealing to those who like their games with a futuristic feel who did not necessarily know of the franchise before playing the online slot.

Can 2017’s Version Live Up To The Hype?

Bearing in mind the serious questions posed by the original, the 2017 remake starring Scarlett Johansson does well to try to bring the themes of the original film to a wider audience.

Sadly, though, the 2017 renewal simply does not stay true enough to the feel of the original to be considered an important and justified remake. Many reviews of the new version focus on the fact that the cast of the film are primarily Western, despite the fact that the film is meant to be set in post-WW3 Japan.

Such oversights could, perhaps, be overlooked if the film benefited from a strong acting performance from the leading actors, or a sense of excitement that is sadly lacking. Scarlett Johansson is a talented actress who has put in some stellar performances in some of her previous films, but on this occasion, she has proved herself incapable of dragging a mundane film up from the depths.

"Scarlett Johansson" by Gage Skidmore (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Feel free to watch the trailer for the film and make up your own mind, but it seems unlikely that this remake is going to be a draw for fans of anime who are likely to get more enjoyment out of the merchandising opportunities from the original or perhaps looking into Ghost in the Shell: The Rising, a 2015 anime sci-fi action spy thriller and the most recent continuation of the story arc.

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