Ghost in the Shell Set Photos Show Scarlett Johansson & Pilou Asbæk

Ghost in the Shell with Scarlett Johansson starts filming

Sci-fi/cyberpunk anime and manga property Ghost in the Shell is becoming a big-budget Hollywood production set for release in 2017, under the direction of Snow White and the Huntsman helmsman Rupert Sanders. Scarlett Johansson is headlining the film as "The Major", a unique cyborg who - in the film's futuristic setting - leads an elite crime-fighting task force known as Section 9, dedicated to stopping criminals who seek to destroy society's advancements in cyber technology over the years.

The controversial casting of Johansson as Ghost in the Shell's protagonist (more on that later) led some to believe that the live-action movie would be a "Western-ized" adaptation of the original Japanese IP created by Masamune Shirow, similar to how the live-action version of Akira (which is currently stuck in development hell) would have taken place in Manhattan - albeit, a version of Manhattan owned by Japan. However, thus far that doesn't appear to be the case, as Ghost in the Shell is now filming in Hong Kong and features a predominantly Japanese supporting cast.

Ghost in the Shell's production moved recently from New Zealand to China, where the buildings and local shops of real-world locations in Hong Kong (including the streets of Yau Ma Tei) will help to bring the movie's futuristic backdrop to life. For those not familiar with the film's source material, Ghost in the Shell's setting bears a resemblance to that from Blade Runner, in terms of the East-Meets-West cityscapes. Moreover, the original Ghost in the Shell property was heavily influential on the cyberpunk aesthetic of The Matrix trilogy, so it stands to reason that Sander's film will beg comparison to that franchise too.

Ghost in the Shell - Batou and The Major

Asian news sites SCMP and HKO1 (hat tip to Kotaku) have posted photos from the set of Ghost in the Shell in Hong Kong, where Johansson and her costar Pilou Asbæk (Lucy) have been spotted in costume as "The Major" and her second in command at Section 9; a fellow named Batou.

CLICK for Ghost in the Shell Set Photos

Asbæk, like Johansson, is a caucasian actor, though otherwise he appears to be all-but identical in his appearance as Batou to his counterpart from the anime and manga iterations of Ghost in the Shell (see above). Batou is, among other things, easy to recognize for his white hair and clear goggle-like cybernetic eyes, but Asbæk doesn't appear to be wearing contact lens that would give him the appearance of non-organic eyes in the latest photos from the film's set. Of course, it's possible that Batou's eyes will be created in post-production or that Asbæk is wearing contacts that aren't visible from the vantage point of these images (assuming that aspect of the character isn't left out altogether from the live-action Ghost in the Shell).

Similarly, Johansson bares a striking resemblance to "The Major" from the Ghost in the Shell anime and manga - save for the fact that Johansson, like Asbæk, is not Japanese. Ghost in the Shell publisher Kodansha’s Director of International Business has claimed that the company "never imagined" the Major character being played by a Japanese actress in the big screen adaptation, but that hasn't done much to stem criticisms that this film represents yet another example of Hollywood "white-washing" roles intended for Asian actors. What impact these critiques will ultimately have on the film's box office performance remains to be seen, but movies that have faced white-washing criticisms in recent years have seemed to suffer commercially for it (see Gods of Egypt, Exodus: Gods and Kings, and so forth).

NEXT: Ghost in the Shell Full Cast & Synopsis Revealed

Ghost in the Shell opens in U.S. theaters on March 31st, 2017.

Source: SCMP, HKO1 (via Kotaku)

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