Aside from Akira, Ghost in the Shell is probably the most notable, widely known Japanese anime out there. And of course there’s been talk of an American remake for years that has never quite materialized. Unlike Akira, however, this adaptation actually seems to be moving forward, and they may have found their lead.
According to The Wrap, Margot Robbie, fresh off her star making turn in Martin Scorsese’s frenetic 2013 banking opus The Wolf of Wall Street, is in talks to take the lead role. These are, reportedly, early talks, and could easily fall apart, but if Robbie does indeed join up with this one, this would be one more huge piece of the puzzle in place. Rupert Sanders, who directed 2012’s Snow White and the Huntsman, has already signed on to direct the picture for DreamWorks. After her on-screen sparring sessions with Leonardo DiCaprio, Robbie is well on her way to becoming a household name, and this is definitely a role that could push her over the top.
There are no specifics on who Robbie might play, but given the nature of the report, and her rising star status, not to mention how good she looks with dark hair, it’s easy to assume that she is going to play the lead. In the original Manga by Masamune Shiro, and the subsequent animated version, this is Major Motoko Kusanagi, though you better believe once DreamWorks gets their hands on this, that’s going to change to something American audiences will be more comfortable saying (if they haven’t already). I suspect something like Susan or Helen (it’s about time we got an action star named Helen).
According to what little description there is of the upcoming live action adaptation, the story seems to be similar to the original, at least on surface. It “follows the exploits of a member of a covert ops unit of the Japanese National Public Safety Commission that specializes in fighting technology-related crime.” Those of you familiar with the original will remember that it deals with the cyber security agency Section 9, which includes Kusanagi, and their hunt for a mysterious hacker named the Puppet Master, who can actually hack people. So they at least sound like they’re in the same ballpark.
Aesthetically, Ghost in the Shell has had a huge, lasting impact. Its influence is still seen in the works of filmmakers like the Wachowskis, and even in the likes of Avatar and A.I.: Artificial Intelligence, which was directed by DreamWorks’ own principal Steven Spielberg, who has been a driving force behind this project for some time.
It’s also going to be interesting to see how much of the dense thematic material gets bulldozed over. There are complex ideas of identity, what it means to be human, sexuality, gender, and the ever-expanding role of technology in our world. These topics and more are just as relevant today, if not more so, than they were in 1995. Let’s hope they’re not given the short end of the stick.