Robot bodies and cyberpunk Japan dazzle in first full Ghost in the Shell trailer

Nov 14, 2016 – Wired – After initially revealing five teasing microtrailers, Paramount has revealed the first full length trailer for its upcoming live action adaptation of Ghost in the Shell.

The two-minute taste of the cyberpunk film – fronted by an introduction from lead actor Scarlett Johansson – continues to build the style and tone glimpsed in the short teasers, but also points to a key diversion from the original anime and manga source material.

In the original manga by Masamune Shirow, first published in Japan in 1989, the lead character Major Motoko Kusanagi is a cyborg police detective. Possessing a ‘full body prosthetic’ due to a traumatic accident, she is possessed of advanced augmented abilities and has become squad leader of Public Security Section 9, charged with investigating cybercrime in an age where consciousness can be digitally transferred between backup bodies, and artificial intelligence is prolific.

However, the upcoming film, directed by Snow White and the Huntsman’s Rupert Sanders, sees Johansson’s take on the character being manipulated by unseen forces. It’s implied she has been saved by being given a robot body, but is later told that the process was done to her deliberately – that her life was stolen. She also has no memory of her life before being ‘cyberneticised’.

It’s not the only change that the live-action Ghost in the Shell has seen. Throughout all the trailers so far released, and in Johansson’s introduction, her role is referred to only as ‘The Major’. While this could well be playing into the memory loss aspect of the Paramount film, by removing the character’s explicitly Japanese name, it also dodges the controversy over the white-washing of the role – despite rumours of testing visual effects to make Johansson look “more Asian”.

It’s a decision Sanders has stood by, though, saying at a press event in Tokyo: “To me, I cast very much from the gut and I think I was very lucky to be able to get an amazing international cast of people that I’ve always really wanted to work with.”

On Johansson specifically, Sanders said: “I stand by my decision — she’s the best actress of her generation. I was flattered and honoured that she would be in this film. I think, certainly people who were around the original anime, have been vehemently in support of her because she’s incredible and there are very few like her.”

The film hasn’t entirely abandoned its Asian roots – it still appears to be set in Japan, and actors including Pilou Asbæk (appearing as Batou, The Major’s partner), Takeshi Kitano, Chin Han, and Rila Fukushima are set to appear.

Ghost in the Shell opens in March 2017.

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