A live-action, westernized Ghost in the Shell is one of those projects that has been kicked around Hollywood forever, or at least since Masamune Shirow’s manga got an anime adaptation back in 1995. It’s a situation where there is a bunch of movement, usually talk of casting or possible directors, then we don’t hear a peep for the next few years. And it’s that way again, but it’s feeling more and more like it could stick this time around, as Scarlett Johansson has reportedly been offered the lead role.
According to Deadline, DreamWorks—this has long been a passion project for Steven Spielberg—are willing to pony up $10 million to secure the 29-year-old actress for their film. The anime follows the exploits of Section 9, a public security agency—think fancy cops—who track down a hacker known as the Puppet Master who can actually hack people. At least in these surface respects, the new version sounds fairly similar. In the original, there is an expansive political conspiracy, as well as themes of identity, sex and gender, technology run wild, and more. The lead is the cybornetic Major Mutoko Kusangi, though you have to assume that’s name is going to be changed and whitewashed in the process.
If Johansson does take this role, she’ll be picking it up after The Wolf of Wall Street’s Margot Robbie failed to come to an agreement with the production. She’s now been linked to the upcoming Suicide Squad movie for D.C. and Warner Bros.
As much as I don’t think this needs to happen, and hope that it doesn’t, if it is inevitable, Johansson is as good a choice as any. In recent years she’s proven that she’s a strong actor—and this is coming from someone who couldn’t stand her earlier in her career. Movies like Lucy, she’s shown she handle herself when it comes to action and weird technological threads in a movie.
If anything though, it’s really her role as Black Widow in movies like The Avengers and Captain America 2: The Winter Soldier (I don’t count her role in Iron Man 2, because she was terrible, which makes how great that character turned out to be later on even more impressive) that indicated just how good she could be in this role. She can juggle intense action and high emotion, and that’s going to be key to properly bringing beautiful, complex character to life on screen.
In theory, the new Ghost in the Shell is going to be based on the manga, but they said that about Oldboy too. Rupert Sanders, the man behind Snow White and the Huntsman, which is more famous for breaking up Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson than being a good movie, will direct the picture. At least that title is pretty to look at, which will come in handy when creating the stunning futuristic world in this new venture, and maybe if he has a solid script to work from it will be okay. That part of the equation is being handled by The Cape’s (remember that show? Six seasons and a movie) William Wheeler.
Ghost in the Shell had a huge impact that is still seen today. The works of filmmakers like the Wachowskis, and even Spielberg’s A.I. owe a huge aesthetic debt to the film, and you have to hope that all the interesting, intricate thematic work—much of which is even more pressing today than in 1995 and before—doesn’t get bulldozed into the ground in favor of rote spectacle.