2017 is set to bring plenty of talked-about and highly-anticipated blockbusters to movie screens, though few have generated as much pre-release controversy as the live-action Hollywood remake of the anime/manga classic, Ghost in the Shell. While footage from the film (released by way of trailers) has been praised for its faithfulness to the visual style of its predecessors, the film has also come under-fire for its whitewashing casting of Scarlett Johansson as the film’s protagonist – originally depicted as a Japanese woman.
Those who are working on the live-action Ghost in the Shell have thus been keen to assure fans that the film will be a respectful adaptation; one that comes with a seal of approval from Ghost in the Shell animated movie director Mamoru Oshii, no less. Now both Ghost in the Shell director Rupert Sanders and Johansson herself have spoken out in support of the movie, too.
Speaking to Empire Magazine about the upcoming film, both Johansson and Sanders (who also directed Snow White and the Huntsman) were eager to reassure fans that they won’t be avoiding the dark edge and explosive action that made the original anime version of Ghost in the Shell a cyberpunk classic – as well as one of the first Japanese animation films to achieve mainstream attention in the U.S. Johansson spoke briefly about the film, saying “This is a ride that’s not just explosive and exciting, but also curious and reflective.” Sanders likewise offered his assurances that “This isn’t the s**t Hollywood version.”
Empire also debuted a fresh image of Johansson as The Major from Ghost in the Shell, as you can see below:
While these quotes (presented in the context of teasing a more in-depth article in an upcoming issue) may indeed be welcomed by fans whose primary concerns preserving the look and feel of the source material (in which Johansson’s character is a cyborg policewoman working to solve crimes in a future where bionic augmentation and the insertion of human consciousness into mechanical bodies is commonplace) it is unlikely to quell the anger that’s been touched off by Johansson’s casting. The Ghost in the Shell situation has been brought up frequently in the ongoing conversation about both the lack of roles for Asian and Asian-American actors, as well as the recasting of nonwhite characters with white actors.
The controversy came to a head several months ago, when news about the project’s casting and concerns about a loss of the franchise’s uniquely Japanese identity being loss began to hit amidst an already-existing flap over the similar recasting of Tilda Swinton as Doctor Strange’s mentor The Ancient One – originally an elderly Tibetan man in the comics. A rumor alleging that CGI tests were conducted to give “Japanese features” to certain white actors in Ghost in the Shell (a plan reportedly not carried out), didn’t help the situation either.