In March 2017, Hollywood will release a new live-action take on a classic Japanese manga. Wait, don't leave! Although the Americans have a truly terrible record when it comes to adapting classic anime in live-action form, there's enough talent behind the forthcoming reincarnation of Ghost in the Shell to suggest it might be worth a look.
Firstly, it's based on a script from Jonathan Herman, who most recently worked on the final draft of Straight Outta Compton, the surprise mega-hit NWA biopic. Director Rupert Sanders proved his action credentials in Snow White and the Huntsman, before being unceremoniously fired from the franchise because he couldn't keep it in his pants.
And then there's Scarlett Johansson. She may have kicked off her career as the girl with the pearl earring, but the last five years have been nothing short of a transformation for Scar Jo, who's now potentially Hollywood's most bankable female action star, hot off Lucy and her ongoing role as the seriously kick-ass Black Widow in Marvel's endless Avengers and Captain America movies.
There's never been a problem with the talent behind this adaptation. The problem runs a little deeper. With that in mind, let's take a look at three upcoming remakes and adaptations Hollywood will be throwing our way in the next two years, and ask one simple question: why?
1. Ghost in the Shell
Ghost seems as fitting a place to start as any. If you're not already familiar with the manga, here's the condensed premise: in a post-Cyberpunk futuristic dystopian Japan, Motoko Kusanagi is one of many who's brain has been "cyberized" (a result of an accident in youth), making her effectively a cyborg in a human body, and thus open to hacking and manipulation. As part of a special ops unit named Section 9, she works to eradicate terrorists masterminded by an evil hacker named The Laughing Man.
The plot isn't just exciting, but also incredibly timely - all the more remarkable considering it was created over 25 years ago. There's a great live-action movie in this story, but the casting of Johansson - whom I consider a great actress - sadly smacks of disrespect toward both the source material and the film's core audience. Will the film retain its Japanese setting, or relocate to Miami? Will this white woman still be playing a character named Motoko, or will she be Mary?
Johansson will probably do a great job, but there's no getting around the fact that this is whitewashing at its most insane. American audiences are ready for a film set in Japan, featuring Japanese acting talent. In its current state, Ghost seems destined to go the way of The Last Airbender. And it's fair to say that nobody has been waiting for The Last Airbender 2: XL Awfulness.
2. The Birds
The Birds is one of the most iconic films of the '60s, a genuinely disturbing psychological thriller which, three years after Psycho, proved that no director in the world could freak out his audience like Hitchcock. You might say that, being over half a century old, enough time has passed for a remake. But given that HBO and BBC made The Girl - a dramatized look at the making of The Birds and Hitchcock's obsession with lead actress Tippi Hedren - in 2012, it seems like a lazy choice for a remake.
Interestingly, the Ghost in the Shell scribe, Jonathan Herman, is also attached to write the updated take on The Birds, with Dutch director Diederik Van Rooijen behind the lens (if you're not familiar with him, you're not alone - he's mostly worked on Dutch TV shows). A previous script draft was written by the writer of Sinister, which is a pretty dreadful omen in itself, and at least three directors have at some point been attached, suggesting trouble behind the scenes.
Chances of this one being worth your time or your money? Pretty minimal.
Perhaps the only thing more amazing than the fact that anybody would dare suggest that the crime genre classic Scarface is crying out for a remake in 2015 is the fact that, yet again, Herman has been tapped to write the script. I'm sure this guy is talented - Compton is evidence of that - but either he or his agent seems to lack ambition, because these remakes really aren't going to flatter him.
Universal, who really should know better, have put the Chilean director Pablo Larraín in charge of this one, and Al Pacino doesn't seem to mind either. In the interest of fairness, too, it's worth nothing that the original wasn't actually original at all, being a remake of a 1932 film. But it's the one which went down in history and it shouldn't be messed with simply because the money men in Hollywood don't have the will or imagination to tap the vast pools of creative talent out there and come up with something new.
Chances of anybody cast in this movie channeling even one fifth of Michelle Pfeiffer's icy femme fatale charisma? Subzero.
So when you burn fifteen of your hard-earned dollars going to see Ghost in the Shell in 2017, don't direct your frustration at Scar Jo. She's just an actor playing by the rules of Hollywood. Better yet, don't burn fifteen of your hard-earned dollars at all, because the only way to send these people a message is not to buy into what they're selling. And then perhaps, just perhaps, this trend will pass.
Are you excited for Ghost in the Shell? Been sat at home asking why nobody ever remade The Birds, or raging over Scarface? Leave a comment!