It’s been a long time coming, but we finally have a second trailer for the Ghost in the Shell remake. The first footage came all the way back in November, but since then word has been quiet, with only a snazzy Super Bowl promo to plug the gap. The film set for release at the end of March, so it’s about time Paramount got pushing their readaptation of the classic manga — alongside Baywatch and Transformers: The Last Knight, it’s one of the studio’s biggest tentpole releases.
Is the new trailer worth the wait? Well, there isn’t any one moment that’s going to wow non-fans or bring people scorned by the casting of Scarlett Johansson as the typically Japanese Major, but it does provide some more details about which bits of the Ghost in the Shell mythos director Rupert Sanders is taking from and sheds some light on the twisty plot.
Following on from everything we already got from the first trailer, here are the major new things we learned from Trailer #2:
The trailer opens with Major (Scarlett Johansson), Batou (Pilou Asbæk) and their team in the middle of a mission to take down a cyber den full of people plugged into some sort of neural network with brutal force. It’s an effective representation of the world that has some cool details — note the tattoos, which you can see being given out in the background of one shot — and provides some good old Section 9 action.
This isn’t just a standard mission, though. Major comes across a mysterious, hooded figure who dissipates after saying “I’ve been watching you… you have to remember.” This would appear to be Michael Pitt’s villain (who we’ll get to in a bit), making this mission a key early step in Major’s journey into her past.
On top of the introduction, there are several moments in the trailer that give viewers some more of Section 9, the counter-terrorism government organization for which Major and Batou work. We get to see the exterior of their building (evidenced by the “9” on the helipad) — a looming, angular, concrete monstrosity — and some of the mission control interiors. As in the anime, they use holograms to monitor missions, although here they’re room-dominating rather than sitting on table pads and colored a menacing red instead of the more 1990s-techy green.
We also get some more of Takeshi Kitano’s Chief Aramaki, the head of the branch and one of Section 9’s few totally human members. As in the first trailer, his moral ambiguity is really played up here (despite that not being the case in the source) — he’s shown sat watching the hologram and later in his office in the manner of a villain. This, along with the idea of Major turning on those who created her, would seem to suggest Section 9 may be, to some degree, antagonists in the movie (or at the very least she believes them to be so).
The Geisha Robots (And The Film’s Opening)
One scene from the first trailer we get a little bit more of is the Geisha robots attack on a business dinner. The inspiration for this scene appears to be the pilot of the TV series, Stand Alone Complex, although its part in the film is a little different; as seen in both trailers, Major interrupts it with a jump off the rooftop, bursting through the window similarly to how she interrupted the Government meet-up at the start of the original anime. This would point toward the opening scene of the live-action film bringing these two striking scenes together in one.
As for the new info in the trailer, we learn that the robots aren’t just assassinating the men, but hacking into the minds of their targets and stealing key information. That’s a sudden introduction to the weird tech of the world and will no doubt tie into the wider plot, possibly leading to the bust seen earlier.
Ghost in the Shell fans will notice something rather different about Pilou Asbæk’s Batou from his anime counterpart at one point in the trailer; as we’ve always known him, Batou’s had cybernetic visual implants, but in the middle of the promo there’s a scene of him and Major driving through Niihama with normal, totally human eyes.
There are two possibilities here. One is that Batou gets the implants during the course of the film. However, more likely is that it’s a flashback. The editing of the trailer tries to suggest the scene is happening within the movie’s main story, after Major’s had her purpose and reality questioned — Batou states to her “you never talk about your past,” prompting Major to respond with “I don’t remember much — just fragments” — but as we never see Asbæk’s mouth move in this bit, it’s likely lines from two different scenes have been spliced together for the ad; the one of Batou with eyes comes from a scene set before the film’s events.
Major’s Secret Past
The opening scene of Ghost in the Shell will be a near shot-for-shot recreation of the anime, showing the creation of Major’s robotic body. This was shown briefly in the first trailer, but the new footage offers a few more shots of the process and a bit more from Juliette Binoche’s scientist creator, who comments “We saved you, and now you save others.” As all pieces of marketing have pushed, however, the real intrigue isn’t in the creation itself, but why it happened and who Major was before.
The new trailer expands that mystery without giving too many specifics away. There’s what appears to be a sequence of Major being examined or experimented on by scientists, the suggestion that Hanka — the company behind Major’s cybernetics — have tried to hide parts of her memory and, later, Johansson being hunted down after learning the truth. It’s hard to tell who’s attacking who or behind what from the trailer’s quick editing, but, whatever’s going on, it hinges on the movie’s villain…
Major’s discovery of her past looks to be orchestrated by Michael Pitt’s Kuze, a completely cybernetic being who served as the villain in the second season of the TV series. In the show he had a romantic past with Major, although their complicated interaction appears to have been altered for the movie. In fact, based on what’s seen, Pitt’s character actually looks to be a mixture of Kuze and anime villain the Puppet Master (a sentient program that wanted to free itself), with the characterization of the former and narrative involvement of the latter.
In the trailer itself Major is seen incapacitated during a fight before being taken to Kuze, who wants her for unknown reasons; the source version of his character was concerned with suppressing refugees, which would provide some fitting political commentary, but the film’s discussion of Major’s origins point to something more ethereal. What is known is that, despite being presented as something of an enlightener, Kuze is set to be the movie’s villain; while there’s something dark in Major’s past, his reasonings for helping her aren’t too honest either.
More Scenes From the Original
There are several scenes from the original anime that are being explicitly remade by the live-action adaptation. The first trailer already highlighted the opening sequence and the fight in the shallows, and the new trailer offers a look at a showdown between Major and a robotic tank in an abandoned building, a recreation of the original’s climactic fight.
What all three of these scenes have in common is that while they share visual cues with the anime, they fit into the new story differently; obviously the opening sequence has Major attacking the Geisha robots, but based on what we can glean about the plot, the reason for the other fights — the spider-tank battle comes as a barrier to Major cracking the Puppet Master’s mystery — will vary somewhat. Ghost in the Shell isn’t a simple remake of the 1995 animated film, but the merging together of several elements of the massive franchise into one coherent story, which will be very interesting for fans to see play out.
The World (Mainly Big Holograms)
On a final note, the new trailer offers a better taste of the world that Sanders has constructed. One of the most defining things of the original anime was its grimy, overcrowded and patched up city, making the futuristic characters and story feel immediately more present. This element appears to have been recreated to a degree, especially in the scenes that directly link to the original, but overall the film’s world has more sheen.
When it comes to presenting Niihama, instead of overgrown communities forced to the brink of canals and chilling concrete pillars, the overwhelming element appears to be a mesh of giant holograms straddling buildings. It’s like a mash-up between Blade Runner‘s gigantic billboards and The Simpsons Treehouse of Horror segment “Attack of the 50 Foot Eyesores.”