Hey guys. So, originally I had planned to do a full analysis video of the first trailer for the Ghost in the Shell live-action film. However, a couple of things hindered that. The first is that I had a pretty long day before I got back to the HQ and when I did come back, my priority was to play Civilization 5 and relax a bit. And with everything I want to talk about with this trailer, that shot down an analysis video for the moment.
However, being the massive GITS fanboy I am, I still want to talk about the trailer. I’ve been sitting on the edge of my seat for a few months now as Paramount dropped teaser after teaser to reel in fans offset by the casting and narrative decision behind this film. GITS is one of the most prominent anime franchises of all time and not everyone is going to agree on how to adapt it: I certainly didn’t. However, I kept a small flicker of hope alive that the filmmakers could bring us a solid adaptation of this anime gold standard that respected its intellectual and philosophical roots. At this moment, I still cannot say one way or the other if they do. But, the trailer gives us some hints that, at least to me, show they are trying to put their best foot forward…and I’m not talking about just the visuals either.
So, I hope you’re ready because my analysis is going into text form: breaking down the key moments from the trailer. Surprisingly, there is a lot to get too…but you would have had to obsessively watch GITS like I do to pick up on it all. And, to be fair to the film, some of this (most of this) is fanboy speculation on my part. I can only go by the images we see and hope to land somewhere close to the truth. And before we begin, I already gave my opinion on the casting twice now. No, this isn’t the cast I wanted. No, this isn’t something I’m going to debate anymore. That debate is over. The only way to win the next debate is with knowledge and an honest account of what this director and this cast are trying to do with the IP. With that said, let’s get started, shall we?
The beginning of this trailer shows off not only the cyborg geishas, but also how the film will be approaching the story by borrowing narrative elements from the animated films and the anime series and creating a new plot altogether. The cyborg geishas going rogue are a call back to both the first episode of Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex and the opening of the film Ghost in the Shell: Innocence. However, the thing to note here was the security men coming through the door. They are clearly working with the geishas to eliminate the people in the room.
This isn’t much of a diversion from the source material as it’ll depend on the backstory they choose to go with. The accepted canon for most fans is that The Major was cyberized at a young age, although the details of why are up to interpretation. 2nd Gig gives us what appears to be a pretty cut-and-dry explanation for why a child would undergo the process in Episode 11 (Kusanagi’s Labyrinth – AFFECTION), however they would follow up that individual episode with Episode 13 (Face – MAKE UP) and Episode 14 (Beware the Left Eye – POKER FACE) that reminds the viewer of the unreliability of memories and even individuality in this world. That was a small tangent, but it goes into the Major’s feeling of isolation to a heavy philosophical degree in the movie and to a lesser, but still important note in the animated series.
This element of the scene feels taken from the first episode of 2nd Gig, when the Chinese Embassy was taken over. And with the classic opening from the first film adapted with The Major using therm-optic camouflage to stop the terrorists, it ties everything nice and neatly together. The two things of narrative note here are that, from the dialogue, it appears that The Major is working alone and Section 9 is just getting off the ground. (This gets further evidence later, but we’ll get to it) and that the events of this story aren’t happening too long after her cyberization.
This theme is further show in the trailer as The Major explores what I’m calling Newport City until further notice and visits a grave yard. There are a lot of people who she could be visiting that would stay true to her background, but a strong part of me believes the Major is visiting her own grave: or rather the grave of what she believes to be her human body. One of the Major’s consistent character traits is the lengths she’ll go to remind herself of her humanity. Sexuality plays a big role in that in the original comics and the animated series. We see a bit of that in the trailer when The Major appears to visit a human prostitute, but also constantly reminding herself of her former mortality would fit into her character. So, again, until proven otherwise; I think she’s visiting her own grave.
After that, the trailer shows us some red coats bringing what appears to be The Major to be cyberized, followed by cuts from the sequence of her cybernation lifted damn near directly from the animated film. This was a very smart choice by the director and while it won’t be the last time they adapt a scene or idea straight from the film, the visual image of The Major being created is one of the most iconic sequences in animation. This is followed swiftly by the second of The Major fighting the ghost-hacked thug in a pond; again, using her therm-optic camouflage. If nothing else, it’s clear that the directors understood that the imagery of Ghost in the Shell is half of what made it works. For now, it seems like that got that much right…and hopefully that nightmare fuel of Borma was just a test photo because that is nightmare fuel that doesn’t deserve to see daylight.
Okay, from the imagery back to the narrative substance. We get a cut of Daisuke Aramaki (YES!) fighting a group of masked attackers. We’ve seen a piece of this clip before, but we never got a clear view of who he was shooting until now. The outfits they’re wearing leads me to believe they are the Umibozu. Quick history: the Umibozu are a black ops group scrambled by the government to liquidate Section 9 when they started uncovering some dark secrets about one of its key players. If it is them, it gives me some hope that they are trying to incorporate some of the philosophy into the film and show them headbutting against the powers that be. This could lead to a very interesting ending if it goes down a similar path to the films and animated series. But for now, it’s good to see the Chief in action and it we get a sliver of something a bit more complex than the usual cyberpunk tropes.
Another small note is that Aramaki is wielding a revolver in the trailer. That is a weapon usually handled by the other fully human member of Section 9: Togusa. Of all the major characters of the franchise, Togusa is one we haven’t seen much of yet. Considering he usually does the heavy detective work for Section 9, it’ll be interesting to see how he fits into the film. A lot of the actual interaction in Section 9 shown in the trailer focus on The Major and Batou. This makes sense as their interactions drive the more personal side of the story. Still though, I want to see my dude in action with his trusty Mateba.
Shortly after we get what appears to be the first full briefing of Section 9 and the augmented reality projector clearly pays homage to the original film. While I can guess who most of the people in the room are, there are two who stand out. On the opposite end of The Major is another woman. Considering the Major is usually the only woman in Section 9, she’s clearly a new character. However, what function she’ll play outside of being ‘the chick that isn’t The Major’ remains to be seen. On display in center of the room could be a new character or a familiar one. Again, because of the rampant cyberpunk corporatism, this guy is more than likely a corporate figure rather than a government one. However, WHO he is analogous to form the source material is my biggest question. I’m guessing he plays a more antagonistic role in the film as Section 9 begins to realize that whatever they’re investigating is bigger than just Kuze (we’ll get to him). While my gut tells me he’s the necessary ‘Evil CEO’ of Hanko (the corporation that replaces Megatech in the movie as the largest prosthetic body developer), my withered shell of a heart hopes he’s either Dr. Imakurusu or Dr. Murai from Stand Alone Complex. That would impress me a Hell of a lot, because that would mean that a central narrative focus of the film would be the Murai Vaccine. I discuss it in more detail in this nerdy post here, but safe to say there is a lot of narrative room for including the Murai Vaccine in this movie: especially considering The Major’s cyberization.
Speaking of that event, one of the things that lend more wait to the process being when the Major was an adult rather than during her childhood was the cut we get of Batou. It appears that he’s getting his optical implants shortly before he joins with Section 9. The cuts are quick here, but it seems to be tied to a shootout he has with the mob, which is a callback to the Yakuza gunfight in Innocence. I’m very iffy on this narrative thread, because one of the best parts of Stand Alone Complex is that all the members had a history before coming to Section 9. The Major’s cyberization was tied to her childhood. Batou’s eyes came from serving as a Ranger. It was a way to create characterization without a lot of dialogue and that being missing from the film seems a bit out of step. I’ll have to see the execution before anything else.
Also, including the scuba diving scene from the film. Nice touch. It seems like it is more personal than the heavy philosophy we get in the animated film. It’ll be interesting to see how they play it and how it’ll be used to define their relationship.
We cut to a quick shot of The Major staring down these gun-toting assholes in black masks. It could be the Umibozu again, but I don’t think that’s them. So, who are they? My best guess is that this is supposed to be the film’s version of the Individual Eleven. This, makes the film a bit more convoluted in my head, because the Individual Eleven have a defined role in 2nd Gig: to exacerbate the refugee situation and help spin it out of control. There is a way to make it happen with the corporation trying to manipulate the public using the Individual Eleven, only to spawn something much worse that they cannot control with Kuze. Admittedly though, this is the one piece of this speculation post that I would like either a happy surprise or to be complete wrong about. There is a such thing as adding too much to a balanced pot and hopefully they just didn’t try to stuff all the GITS franchise into a single movie.
Of all the speculation in this dispatch, there is a small Easter egg that shows they’re paying attention and can be subtle when need be. During the scene where The Major is on assignment at what appears to be a strip club, she can be seen in a red bodysuit and clearly has dyed, purple hair: a nice nod to the most recent entry into the franchise, Ghost in the Shell: Arise. Very small, but nice touch.
Now, onto probably the most interesting mashup of the entire trailer: Hideo Kuze. Keeping in pace with the overall direction of the film, this Kuze appears to be a merger between the actual 2nd Gig Kuze and the Puppet Master from the film. This could work very well once you consider what the Puppet Master and Kuze are separately and remove the deeper philosophy behind them both. The Puppet Master is a sentient AI determine to break from the government and assume a separate identity. Kuze is a revolutionary whose reached near messianic levels of respect as he fought for an independent state. As I said, the reasons behind those goals aren’t likely to make it into the film. But if you have this sentient AI that decides to go with it and fight against the system, becoming a messianic figure in the process, then you can have the best of both worlds.
That’s makes more sense to me: especially considering the monks. I never understood the monks because systems of faith play such a little role in the franchise. However, it would fit into the messianic half of Kuze’s character to have a group of followers that deified him to a certain extent. An AI who developed to the point of being able to freely hack into other machines or people and procure their own body would certainly fit into being deified in a cyberpunk story. We also see a shadow of Kuze’s burnt chassis: clearly invoking the Puppet Master. This is something that can work, but can also very easily go the route of just being a poor man’s Roy Batty from Blade Runner.
It’s going to come down to narrative structure and direction honestly, because I can see in my head this story working. You have this group working to overthrow the government and using their leader, a sentient AI, to rally people around them. Especially consider the Major’s monologue on her separate she feels from society. Eventually the AI decides to escape their government bounds and creates a body for themselves: same as the Puppet Master. The body is nearly destroyed but it still works well enough for it to lead in ‘person’. Section 9 goes up against the group, finds out the truth about the AI, and the government decides to liquidate them before it gets out. That’s a solid story for me and one that perfectly incorporates the several different iterations of Ghost in the Shell.
Plus, we will get the Major taking on the tank at some point: more than likely the climax of the film. It isn’t enough for me to brush off all the naysayers and fully embrace the film. But there is enough in the trailer to where I can see it working and being a decent movie. It’s supposed to come out early next year so further questions must wait until I see it. I’m sure debate will continue to rage about it, but at this point, I just hope that they get enough right here to where it can be good and not just another cyberpunk film. Ghost in the Shell deserves a solid chance at this and if they can accomplish that, it’ll be good for other anime franchises jumping to live action down the road.
Anyway, check out the trailer yourselves and see what you think. Are you excited for the film after seeing it or still on the fence? If you disagreed with the casting, has anything you seen so far eased your mind or not? I’d love to hear your guys’ thoughts on it. JP3: OUT.
Images used in this review came from the trailer, which was hosted by Movieclips.