Years have passed (literally) since anyone’s talked about re-adapting Masamune Shirow’s landmark manga-cum-anime Ghost in the Shell. First conceived on the page by Shirow in 1989, brought to the big screen in 1995, and sequelized in 2004 (by legendary Japanese filmmaker Mamoru Oshii), the Ghost in the Shell franchise has largely survived as a television property in the intervening decade, as seen in early aughts TV show Standalone Complex and, much more recently, OVA series Arise.
This makes recent developments over a new Ghost in the Shell film potentially very exciting. It turns out that there’s been movement on bringing Shirow’s creation back to theaters with a new update on his original work; Dreamworks, the studio that initially released the truly excellent movie sequel Ghost in the Shell: Innocence ten years ago still owns the rights, and they’re intent on pushing ahead with another interpretation of Shirow’s manga, this time through a live-action rather than animated lens.
According to Deadline, who broke the news earlier today, Dreamworks even has a name lined up for the director’s chair: Rupert Sanders, of Snow White and the Huntsman notoriety. Sanders will be working from a script penned by writer William Wheeler, lately responsible for authoring the screenplay of political thriller The Reluctant Fundamentalist.
These are two of the most fundamental building blocks of the filmmaking process; if Dreamworks already has a script lined up and a helmsman ready to take the reigns, then they’re probably pretty serious about getting the film made.
But will the choice of Sanders satisfy those loyal to Shirow’s and Oshii’s respective creative contributions to the Ghost in the Shell brand, or will his association with Snow White and the Huntsman simply disappoint fans?
Ghost in the Shell is a far cry from the fantasy fare of Sanders’ Snow White riff; set in the future, Shirow’s story revolves around Security Section 9, a special ops police force tasked with combating cyber-crime in a world where people commonly interface with personal technology implanted directly into their brains. Quite different from the sword and sorcery trappings of Sanders’ debut.
At this point, Sanders remains an unproven filmmaking quantity; one movie, particularly one so lackluster as Snow White and the Huntsman, is a very small sample size to determine a director’s skill behind the camera. But clearly Hollywood sees something in him, as he’s attached to direct on no fewer than three other distinct projects; he’s all set for Universal’s Napoleon biopic, true crime saga 90 Church, and an adaptation of British author Frederick Forsyth’s novel The Kill List.
So Sanders has a pretty full plate as it is. Maybe it would behoove Dreamworks to call on someone who’s both more established and more available to call the shots on set for their film, though; Sanders, whatever anyone thinks of his directorial efforts, seems like a shaky pick if only for the sake of how busy he’s becoming as his involvement with Snow White and the Huntsman finally starts to pay off for him.
As a result, this turn of events feels like something of a mixed blessing. It’s invigorating to see Dreamworks get the gears turning on their Ghost in the Shell production, but Sanders isn’t an especially inspired pick for the material.
There’s a question as to whether a new interpretation of Shirow’s graphic novel is even necessary in the first place, as with most studio-driven live-action anime pictures (notably Warner Bros.’ Akira remake, which received a production start date months ago). Ghost in the Shell, no matter what incarnation you enjoy it in, is great as it is. What’s to be gained from making a Hollywood version of the same narrative?
For the time being, though, this looks like it’s happening whether fans approve or not. We’ll just have to sit back and wait to see if the whole thing actually comes to fruition, and what it looks like when it finally takes shape.
We’ll keep you posted on Ghost in the Shell updates as they become available.