The Scarlett Johansson-led sci-fi action film Ghost in the Shell debuts at the end of this month, and the filmmakers will soon discover if the casting controversy will overshadow the positive buzz for the film at the box office. Based collectively on the original manga, the 1995 animated film, and the 2003 anime series, the new Ghost in the Shell promises to be a treasure trove of stylistic imagery, advanced technology, and mind-blowing special effects.
The story of The Major (Johansson), a nearly total cyborg who fights crime as an elite covernment operative while trying to connect with the tiny bit of humanity she still possesses, presents many difficult challenges to a live-action project. The mechanics of this futuristic world, where most people are cybernetically enhanced, would seem to require a lot of reliance on CGI. However, two behind the scenes videos reveal there will be plenty of tangible elements in Ghost in the Shell.
The first video, which you can watch above, features Tested editor and host Adam Savage (formerly of MythBusters) meeting with Weta Workshop’s Richard Taylor, whom viewers will likely recognize from all those Lord of the Rings special features. The duo inspect and discuss several of the masks and animatronics used for the geisha robot attack sequence shown in trailers for Ghost in the Shell. The attention to detail by the creators is staggering, all the way from molded-in Lucite hair ornaments to tiny fans inside the masks to keep the actors as cool as possible.
Adam Savage next meets with costume technician Flo Foxworthy, in the second video above, to view the “Thermoptic” suit that Johansson wears in Ghost in the Shell to emulate the naked android look. Foxworthy reveals the multiple processes that went into molding the innovative silicone suit, which began with a 3D scan of the actress so that it would precisely fit her form. This required some “nips and tucks,” then, for the four suits made for Johansson’s stunt double.
There’s not much point in making a live-action version of Ghost in the Shell if it’s so CGI’d it looks completely animated, so it’s good to see how much effort was made into creating a more solid world for the characters to inhabit. As Savage exhibits by his reactions in the above videos, the complex animatronics of the geisha robots alone helps add a level of both beauty and terror to the film that wouldn’t be possible with complete CGI. While stunning special effects and costume craftsmanship don’t guarantee the film will be a hit with critics and fans, the quality of work displayed behind the scenes creates hope that the final product will be even more impressive.