New set photos for the live-action remake of Ghost In The Shell have surfaced online, offering us a better glimpse of Scarlett Johansson in the lead role of Motoko Kusanagi.
Both Johansson and co-star Pilou Asbæk certainly look the part from a distance, bearing more than a striking resemblance to the Major and her second-in-command, Batou, but the release of these pictures reignites the ongoing controversy that first kicked off when Johansson's part was announced.
Before we delve further into the whitewashing controversy that's plagued this production from this outset, let's break down what Ghost In The Shell actually is for the non anime-fans out there who are still keen to see Johansson kick ass in another sci-fi epic.
What's Ghost In The Shell Actually About?
In case anyone's worried that Johansson might be playing the spirit of a dead turtle for her next film, let's kick things off with an official Ghost In The Shell synopsis from the studio:
"Based on the internationally-acclaimed sci-fi property, 'Ghost In The Shell' follows the Major, a special ops, one-of-a-kind human-cyborg hybrid, who leads the elite task force Section 9. Devoted to stopping the most dangerous criminals and extremists, Section 9 is faced with an enemy whose singular goal is to wipe out Hanka Robotic’s advancements in cyber technology."
Based on Masamune Shirow's Japanese anime, Ghost In The Shell boasts one of the most stunning futuristic landscapes ever committed to film and has inspired countless movies since, including a couple of little-known projects known as Avatar and The Matrix.
Who Will Scarlett Johansson Play?
The technology of Ghost In The Shell's future has advanced to the point where people can directly connect their minds to computer networks, but Johansson's character Kusanagi was augmented even further than most after a childhood accident forced doctors to transfer her consciousness into a full-body prosthesis.
As the field commander for Public Security Section 9, the Major is an extremely capable individual whose hacking skills and cybernetic enhancements would put even the likes of Black Widow to shame. Super strength, lightning reflexes and expert marksmanship skills are just some of the benefits that Kusanagi enjoys with her new, artificial body.
Who Else Is Involved?
Out of all the characters who feature in the original Ghost In The Shell, Batou is the only one we've seen now besides the Major, which makes sense as the two cybernetically enhanced agents will work alongside each other for the bulk of the new film.
Alongside the Games of Thrones star Asbæk, the film's international cast will also include the likes of Rila Fukushima, Juliette Binoche, Takeshi Kitano and Michael Pitt in the villainous role of The Laughing Man, a corporate terrorist hacker who aims to disrupt society for his own selfish means.
Why Is There So Much Controversy?
Ghost In The Shell is a fundamentally Japanese property that incorporates numerous cultural elements into its story, so fans were outraged when Johansson was cast in the lead role of Kusanagi for the remake, arguing that there are many capable Japanese actresses who could have been chosen in her place.
The controversy led to over 100,000 people signing an anti-whitewashing petition, but Kodansha, the publisher of the original Ghost In The Shell comics, had an unexpected opinion on the matter, saying that:
"Looking at her career so far, I think Scarlett Johansson is well cast. She has the cyberpunk feel. And we never imagined it would be a Japanese actress in the first place. This is a chance for a Japanese property to be seen around the world."
Whether Johansson's casting was deliberate white-washing on Hollywood's part or whether the studio simply felt that Scarlett is a more bankable star remains to be seen, but either way, there's a huge amount of pressure on Rupert Sander's (Snow White and the Huntsman) adaptation of the anime classic.
The franchise of Ghost In The Shell has left an undeniable legacy on pop culture, encompassing a wide variety of films, comics, games and TV shows over the past 20 years, so let's hope that Sander's will treat the property with the respect it deserves, retaining the original's existential trappings without resorting to mindless action.
Anything less than perfect will be shot down by fans in an instant, but we're still holding out hope for a stunning adaptation of Ghost In The Shell by the time March 31, 2017 rolls around.
Images via HK01