Hollywood has been looking to do a live action Ghost in the Shell for a while now and word coming down that Wolf of Wall Street actress Margot Robbie is circling the lead of Major Motoko Kusanagi. Who I’m sure will be renamed as Megan Kennedy or something very Caucasian. Just as I’m sure almost all the roles will be white, maybe one black person and if we’re lucky they’ll make the director Asian. Right?
Now defenders of Hollywoods changing has brought up several films. Grudge or even Edge of Tomorrow but that is actually different. Films like Grudge are straight remakes. It takes the basic set up and formula and makes it American. Its not an adaptation like Edge of Tomorrow, which was a drastic reworking of the book and surprisingly came out pretty well. They simply abandoned a good chunk of the book just keeping the general idea and one character (Emily Blunts) and churned out an actual excellent film. So why won’t that work for Ghost in the Shell? Well…
Rewriting All You Need Is Kill to Edge of Tomorrow switched the young lead of the book into the older Tom Cruise character. He is not playing the character in the book, allowing for more range. While Emily’s character is slightly changed she still plays the role the book intended. Its a loose adaptation which Ghost in the Shell won’t be. GITS charm isn’t just the setting its the cast. Major Motoko Kusanagi is a well known figure in manga and anime. She’s iconic science fiction character. Her visual is one of the classics of the mediums. Margot Robbie is playing this role but won’t be. Its not Motoko, its a Western stand in. While her supporting team isn’t as famous, they are important. GITS is a military/police series. Kusanagi, Batou, Togusa, and Cheif Aramaki. As an adaptation versions of these characters will be put into the movie.
There is also the notion form some defenders of this idea that GITS isn’t as cultured as other anime/manga which I find stupid. Of course it is. Customs, interactions, and attitudes are clearly based in Japanese culture. They do not act American or Western. Just because it doesn’t deal specifically with history or social-economics of Japan of the time doesn’t mean those elements don’t inform the story. Especially if you ever seen the Stand Alone Complex in which its clear just how Japanese the series actually is. Of course all the culture will be stripped and that’s what many people don’t understand-part of the reason anime like GITS and Akira work is that culture. Is that setting. Hollywood can’t really adapt that, they have to create a substitute and I feel they can’t. They’ll play it straight like an action film. Yeah… I guess that could work but then why not just make a scifi actioner with a similar premise?
Another difference between this and other American done Japanese properties is that Ghost in the Shell, while not a major franchise in the US, is a franchise in the US. The movies have screened in limited release and every series and manga has been presented here. There is clearly a fanbase for this and the US anime/manga fanbase don’t care for these. True, that doesn’t really matter in Hollywood or the box office figures at the end of the day however you are going to have Dreamworks attempting to calm and guarantee to this audience they’ll do the work with great admiration for the work. Unless they’re like WB and just ignore the questions and concerns surrounding the never realized Akira adaptation.
Ultimately it comes down to this-why? GITS isn’t the first scifi property about cyborgs or hackers or cops going against cyber crimes. Its not. What makes GITS work is the characters and the attitude. So to adapt it and change it means you are using stand ins for what made the property appealing in the first place.
Now, ultimately the film (if it gets made) can turn out well. It can be a big success. I just feel frustrated. Especially with people who dismiss white washing. These people are idiots for a number of reasons. They believe studios hire the best actors when time and time again its shown Hollywood will not look at actors because of skin color. No woman of color was allowed to audition for Katniss. Or how about Last Airbender casting? Originally all the leads who were cast were white for characters who are clearly not white. Do you think Margot Robbie had to audition against a bunch of American Asian actress’? Hell-how many American Asian Actress’ can you name off the top of your head?
I really don’t want this to get off the ground. Remember Dragonbal: Evolution? No. Good.