With just over a month to go before the 31st March release of Ghost in The Shell, we’ve just been given a fresh injection of nanoware (a new trailer) into our cyber-augmented craniums (erm, the internet?). The film will present a live-action update of Mamoru Oshii’s beloved cyberpunk franchise, in which human essences can be transferred into cybernetic host bodies. The production has been mired in controversy amidst accusations that the casting of Scarlett Johanson as The Major is yet another case of Hollywood whitewashing. The first trailer certainly whet our appetite, but didn’t offer much in the way of plot beyond “ooooh, shiny”. This time around, the story is beginning to take shape.
The most crucial revelation of this new trailer is the films chief antagonist, Kuze, a cyber-terrorist played by Michael Pitt who promises to help the Major re-learn her forgotten past. He does this through the long-established villain mediums of creepy holograms and shadow-lurking. Visually the trailer is, frankly, boss as hell. It presents us with a vision of a cyberpunk future that makes films like The Matrix and Blade Runner look tragically analogue. This is a world where not having a tech-upgrade to your body marks you out as the weird one. It’s a world that sees your neon signage and raises you skyscraper-sized hologram adverts.
In some ways it stays true to the original vision. Hardcore fans of the anime by Mamoru Oshii will recognise shots that are ripped directly from his 1995 adaptation. Is this a loving tribute, a cynical placate-the-nerds decision or a sign of lack of ideas? Only the film’s release will tell.
On the plus side, this new trailer begins to flesh out some of the plot. On the minus side, what plot it reveals seems to be a mishmash of Sci-fi thriller clichés that visual effects alone can’t make up for. This version of the Major looks suspiciously like a hybrid of Jason Bourne and Alice from Resident Evil. A secret government project with amnesia that discovers her past and turns on her creators? It’s a potentially fun plot but we’ve seen it before, and Ghost in the Shell it ain’t.
Perhaps it’s the backlash against Scarlett Johanson’s casting or the fact that director Rupert Sanders only has one other feature, Snow White and the Huntsman, under his belt, but we’re not ready to jump on the Ghost in the Shell hype train just yet. It looks pretty as hell and we’re as eager as anyone to dive into the neon-drenched streets of New Port city, but we’re hoping there’s going to be more to the story than this new trailer seems to suggest.