The live-action Ghost in the Shell movie, based on Masamune Shirow's acclaimed sci-fi anime/manga property of the same name, has been in some form of development since 2008; however, it now looks to be the first arrival in what could be a wave of Hollywood live-action movies based on Japanese comic book/animation franchises, followed by such films as Death Note from director Adam Wingard (You're Next). Scarlett Johansson is headlining the film with Rupert Sanders (Snow White and the Huntsman) onboard as director, while Sam Riley (Maleficent) and Pilou Asbæk (Johnasson's Lucy costar) are said to be onboard to play key roles in the futuristic action/thriller.
It was previously reported that Ghost in the Shell would be starting production by the first quarter of 2016, though that was back around the mid-way point of 2015 - and with limited information about the project having been released since that time, there's certainly a possibility that the film will start shooting later than once expected. Ghost in the Shell has now exchanged studio distributor hands too, though it's not clear if this will have any effect on the release date.
Deadline is reporting that Ghost in the Shell will now be released in theaters by Paramount Pictures instead of Disney, with Paramount also co-financing the project. This doesn't come as a huge surprise though, seeing as Ghost in the Shell is a DreamWorks Pictures production and it had been previously reported that the studio would be parting ways with Disney after the release of its co-founder Steven Spielberg's The BFG adaptation this summer - something that was inevitably going to have an effect on DreamWorks' in-development films, including Ghost in the Shell. This move also gives Paramount a high-profile movie to release in the first quarter of 2017, before it unveils such summer heavyweights as Baywatch and Transformers 5 in the quarter thereafter.
Ghost in the Shell makes more sense as a Paramount release than a Disney one, when you look at it. The story is set in the future, where a special ops cyborg (Johansson) leads a counter-cyberterrorism organization on a mission to track down an extremist terrorist group led by a mysterious figure, known in Shirow's original work as The Laughing Man (the role Riley is said to be lined up for).
The original Ghost in the Shell was heavily influential on both the themes and aesthetic of Andy and Lana Wachowski's The Matrix trilogy - to the point where some fans would argue that The Matrix is an unofficial Ghost in the Shell live-action remake, in many ways. Sanders' fondness for darker, yet at the same time stylized visuals on Snow White and the Huntsman make him a reasonable fit to tackle the world of Ghost in the Shell for those reasons, but it also means the live-action version will lie outside the Mouse House's wheelhouse - given its overall mature tone.
Already, Ghost in the Shell has rubbed several fans of Shirow's original property the wrong way; not only for its casting of white actors and the likelihood that it will abandon the original film's Japanese setting (a cultural backdrop that shares a deep connection to the story's themes and concepts), but also because Hollywood doesn't exactly have a stellar track record when it comes to anime adaptations in general (see Speed Racer, Dragonball: Evolution, and so forth). Then again, Ghost in the Shell could satisfy that demand for sci-fi philosophy/action that made the original Matrix films a success - and kept interest alive in something like TRON 3, until Disney formally passed on the project.
Ghost in the Shell is currently slated to open in U.S. theaters on March 31st, 2017.