I was elated. It was the summer of ’09, I was back home from college, and I had just got the best news an anime nerd has ever gotten: the rumored Cowboy Bebop film had been confirmed. Not only that, but Keanu Reeves was slated to star as main protagonist, and all around bad-ass, Spike. It wasn’t just that we got a superstar as the lead, but we also got the team that created the original show as executive producers to ensure the film stayed true to the source material. It was a dream come true. I hopped onto the internet forums where me and the other nerdophiles gushed at how exciting this all was. Finally, the mainstream world would get to experience something we all held so near and dear to our hearts.
The film was slated for a 2011 release but slowly it fell apart. What happened? Well part of the problem was the budget; they were asking for way more then any studio was willing to pay. The other issue comes from timing; Cowboy Bebop was trying to get greenlit in the midst of the rocky start of anime adaptations in Hollywood. Here is a list of every Hollywood anime adaption that has come out in the past 20 years:
Speedracer – 2008 Metacritic 37
Astroboy – 2009 Metacritic 53
Dragonball Evolution – 2009 Metacritic 45
Isn’t it weird that all of these films belly-flopped onto the scene all around the same one-year time frame? It was as if Hollywood was trying to tap into a new well of material, only to find out that the water was putrid and filled with man-eating bacteria. Despite all of this, anime is back after a 8 year hiatus. Director Rupert Sanders is the brave soul willing to go back to that well with 2017’s Ghost in the Shell: a feature length live action film based on the 1995 anime film and TV series of the same name.
With the future of anime adaptations on the line, can Ghost in the Shell keep the anime dream alive in Hollywood? Predicting the success of a film solely based on news, leaks, and trailers is a recipe for disaster…but I’m going to do it anyway! Here are the three reasons why I think Ghost in the Shell won’t be a complete and utter catastrophe.
Reason #1: It is not an action movie for teenage boys.
One of the strongest things Ghost in the Shell has going for it is that it isn’t the same genre as the past Hollywood anime adaptations. Instead of a shallow action film, we are getting a futuristic psychological crime drama. We have evidence that this kind of film can be successful with Minority Report and Blade Runner. Hopefully, with a more meaningful and deeper story Ghost in the Shell will be able to bring in a much wider audience.
Reason #2: Star Power!
The previous three adaptations all had relative nobodies in the lead and supporting roles. With Ghost in the Shell we are getting Scarlett Johansson in the lead role as The Major! Talk about stardom! We are talking about one of the most prolific actresses of our generation coming off of one of the most highly regarded superhero franchises of all time. We also get Beat Takeshi as Chief Aramaki. You may know Takeshi from Battle Royal where he plays the school teacher Kitano, but the Japanese know him as the most iconic Japanese actor of all time. Meanwhile the most famous person in the Dragonball movie was Spike from Buffy…AND HE’S ONLY IN IT FOR LIKE TEN MINUTES. With two superstars from opposite sides of the world in the same film together, Ghost in the Shell clearly has a leg up on its predecessors.
Reason #3. The film will stay true to the source material.
This may be the biggest point of all. The past three anime adaptations have strayed away from its source material. This never made much sense to me as the whole reason they are making a movie is because audiences enjoyed a show enough to warrant a film in the first place (COUGH THE LAST AIRBENDER COUGH). Ghost in the Shell, at least at first glance, seems to be staying faithful to the original film and TV show. It is hard to tell because we are only working with minutes of out of context scenes from the trailers, but it looks promising. Rather than trying to make a shot-for-shot remake of the original 1995 film, the team is picking and choosing which parts of what sections of the Ghost in the Shell franchise to adapt into a singular film. I don’t want to get into too much of the suspected plot because 1) it is uncertain at best and 2) it would be quite spoiler heavy, but based on director interviews I’m fairly confident that this will be a faithful adaptation.
Even with all the good that is going for it, there is one glaring, giant, magnificent, hangup, still looming over the film: the director. Rupert Sanders is a relatively unknown quantity, but there are two things we know for sure: he directed the middling Snow White and the Huntsman and he directed one of the greatest video game commercial of all time. If we can get less of the former and more of the latter we are in for quite the film.
Ghost in the Shell (Paramount Pictures) comes out March 31st nationwide.