Ghost in the Shell + DreamWorks << Ghost in the Shell
Posted by Doug on October 18, 2008
Five months after Variety runs the article, I read that DreamWorks has secured rights to Masamune Shirow’s Ghost in the Shell manga, and intends on adapting it into a 3D live-action film. To quote Han Solo, “I’ve got a bad feeling about this.”
I’m a GitS fanboy. I’ve read the original manga, and Man/Machine Interface, and Human-Error Processor, and The Lost Memory, Revenge of the Cold Machines, and White Maze novels. I’ve seen the Ghost in the Shell movie, and its sequel, Innocence. I’ve watched Stand Alone Complex, SAC 2nd Gig, and Solid State Society more times than I probably should mention. This is not to say I am in any way special—my point is merely that I am fairly familiar with the original work and its direct descendants.
A significant part of what I enjoy about Japanese anime, manga, and film is the cultural differences in storytelling. Take for example Kurosawa Akira’s Seven Samurai and its American remake, John Sturges’ The Magnificent Seven. The story in both is essentially the same: farmers are harrassed by bandits, and decide to hire warriors on the cheap to defend them, seven warriors are recruited and proceed to train the villagers to defend themselves, there is a romance subplot involving the least experienced warrior and one of the village girls, there is a climatic battle against the bandits, and ultimately only three of the seven warriors survive.
But Seven Samurai is my favorite movie, a superlative film, and I would describe The Magnificent Seven as above average, but only if you enjoy westerns. If they are so much alike, how can one be so much better than the other?
It’s the details, of course.
For example, take the “romance subplot” I mentioned above. In The Magnificient Seven, it is Chico the young gunslinger and Petra the farm girl. In the end, Chico stays in the village with Petra—a typical ending in an American film. But in Seven Samurai, it is Okamoto Katsushirō the young rōnin samurai and Shino the farm girl, and despite their romance, in the end Shino shuns Katsushirō, and he leaves Shino and the village behind to continue his rōnin lifestyle. To a Western audience, that ending to the romance subplot is unexpected; people would likely complain, feeling that they were somehow ‘cheated’ out of a happy ending.
Seven Samurai does not have a happy ending. The farmers are still farmers, their immediate problem solved, to be sure, but they are really still in the same predicament that they started out in. The surviving samurai have nothing to show for their efforts except the memories.
Oh, man, I forgot what I was getting at…oh yeah, DreamWorks, Ghost in the Shell, right.
Simply put, I believe that the elements of Ghost in the Shell that appealed to its fans and earned it the appellation “classic” will be either sugar-coated or dumbed-down or both. Horrible “adjustments” to the storyline and characters will be performed—I would not be surprised if Kusanagi were to reject the union with Project 2501, or if Major Motoko Kusanagi became “Major Michelle Kowalski” and suddenly became blonde-haired and blue-eyed. Batou will become “Brighton,” have normal-looking eyes and goofy sunglasses, and be “Kowalski”‘s lover. The Fuchikoma will be a Knight Rider-esque police car. The philosophical and ethical themes Masamune Shirow wove into the storytelling will flat-out disappear. It’ll be just another senselessly hyperviolent sci-fi actioner that just so happens to have the name Ghost in the Shell.
Short version: I predict DreamWorks’ version of Ghost in the Shell will suck.
Use Ghost in the Shell as inspiration, as a stylistic guide—this worked fairly well for the Wachowski brothers. If you’re going to adapt it into a film, don’t destroy everything that made it what it is.