A new trailer for Paramount’s 2017 live-action adaptation of Masamune Shirow’s Ghost in the Shell has come out, and as a long time fan of the franchise, I once again make a shot-by-shot analysis on what we can expect from the final product based on what we can see in it. As a warning, I will address references to earlier iterations of the franchise, and this analysis may contain spoilers concerning them. If this is OK with you, lets get this show on the road.
The trailer begins, like the previous one, with a futuristic cityscape filled with holograhpic advertisement boards. Directly afterwards, however, we move to a some kind of raid led by Batou (Pilou Asbæk), while we see humanoid security robots in the background, seemingly unconcerned by the approaching gunmen — are they poorly programmed sentinels, or in fact waiting for Batou’s team to provide backup?
And an indoor shot. These appear to be some kind of Yakuza-types, judging from the tattoos and the setting. I wonder if they’re engaged in an illegal hacking operation, or if this is a some sort of futuristic drug den serving electronic narcotics?
Whatever it is, Batou’s not taking too kindly to it. Section 9 seems to be in the business of shooting first and asking questions later. Not that I’m complaining, rapid assault missions have always been their usual forte, aside from cyberhacking and intelligence gathering.
Our first shot of the Major (Scarlett Johansson) in this trailer, also partaking in the assault. It’s interesting that, at least the way the scene is shot, she doesn’t seem to be taking the lead, instead leaving that job to Batou. I generally get the impression that this version of the Major is not the field leader of Section 9, as in the source material, but rather a special weapon of the taskforce without much independence to her actions.
I’m not sure, but I think that the guy on the left behind her may be Ishikawa (Lasarus Ratuere), judging by his barely visible beard. In that case the guy on the right could be Togusa (Chin Han), but the scene is too blurry to be sure.
“I have been watching you. You have to remember.”
Ominous declaration, courtesy of the false image of the supposed villain of the film, Kuze (Michael Pitt), in an oddly stilted tone.
This method of “stealing eyes” is referenced often in the franchise, projecting sounds and images straight into the brains of victim to mess with their minds. This ability was especially prominently used by the Laughing Man, the antagonistic figure that the Section 9 faced in the first season of the Stand Alone Complex-TV series. This also shows that the Major really isn’t on the level of experience that she’s normally at — hacking her brain has been patently impossible to even the greatest hackers, unless she outright invited them in.
The headquarters of the Section 9, judging from the context. A lot more public but also far more forbidding in appearance than most versions of the place.
“I saw someone down there. He wasn’t human.”
Our first shot of Chief Aramaki (Takeshi “Beat” Kitano), who seems surprised by the news — full-prosthetic cyborgs really seem to be a rarity in this version of the setting. Although judging from the hologram in the previous screenshot, I suspect that the dialogue may lifted be from a different scene — I’ll get more to that, later. On an aside note, this scene looks like an homage to a holographic briefing scene from Mamoru Oshii’s second Ghost in the Shell film, Innocence.
Aramaki still doesn’t get a chance to actually talk in this trailer. It’s been revealed at an interview that the veteran actor, Takeshi Kitano, will only speak in his native Japanese in this role, so whoever put the trailer together probably wants to avoid scaring people away with subtitles. I’ve always found bilingual dialogue rather awkward in films, but I guess we’ll have to wait and see how it works out.
“He’s a known terrorist. And he’s killed again.”
A familiar shot from the previous trailer is cut by the appearance of a new character. I think I should recognise the actor, but for the life of me I can’t connect a name to the face. In any case, while he’s giving a briefing to Section 9 (see Togusa on the background), his slimy tone of voice and mannerisms immediately peg him for a bad guy. He could be a counterpart for Gohda Kazunoto from the second season of Stand Alone Complex, who proved to be the true antagonist of the show instead of Kuze.
“They didn’t just kill them,” says the Major, “they hacked into their minds.”
I really wonder who puts all these extra functions into ordinary service robots? Or are they supposed to be assault robots disguised as servants? There’s a curious visual effect here, the lights in the data cable flowing like liquid, giving the impression of a blood-sucking vampire.
And here’s the reason why I think that the dialogue from the earlier hologram scene is separate from the dialogue. This guy’s face is on the hologram, while the dialogue seems to concern a wholly different assault scene.
“He’s everywhere and nowhere,” says Togusa, the first time we hear a non-white main character talk in these trailers. He looks and sounds a lot younger here than in any previous shots of the character, slightly alleviating the concerns about miscasting the supposed rookie of Section 9 as a 47-year old man, though I doubt that they can keep the actor’s age completely downplayed.
The scene of the Major falling, lifted from the 1995 film, is once again shown in this trailer, but this time with the optic camouflage effect added on. Unfortunately the dialogue once again dips down to cheese levels: “I’m going to find him and I’m going to kill him.”
“You never talk about your past.”
At this point it’s outright confirmed that Batou’s eyes will get cyberised during the film. In any case, this scene also outright states what’s been implied from the start, that the Major has a serious case of amnesia.
And right after, this scene, a huge explosion throws Batou and someone else (the Major?) back. I can guess that this is why he’s going to need those new eyes.
A scene of the Section 9 redcoats, the technical staff of the department, rolling someone, probably the Major, on a stretcher, while a character named Dr. Ouelette (Juliette Binoche) narrates why she was turned into a cyborg.
Speaking of which, more clips from the advertised Making of a Cyborg-sequence, one of the most famous scenes of the 1995 film. I do hope that they still have time to refine the CGI on this, it looks really fake compared to most scenes shown in the trailers.
This scene was already in the previous trailer, but I wanted to say a thing or two about the visual design of the Major’s cybernetics. I am really not fond of the idea of making her muscles transparent; it gives her a flimsy, unreal look that emphasises the CGI element, while reducing the heavy physicality of a cyborg frame. On the other hand, I do appreciate the implication that there is a biological element to her body, complete with veins and arteries. They might have wanted to crop the scene a little differently, though, since it seems now that her crotch is completely without openings, leaving curious minds to wonder how her biological components are supposed to evacuate their waste products.
A shot of the Major doing a compulsory superhero pose on the rooftops of her city. They’re really going to go their way to market this as a cross of Generic Superhero Film and Robocop, aren’t they?
“Everything they told you was a lie. You had a family.”
See what I mean about the Robocop references? This seems to be a bad dream or a vision caused by Kuze’s cyberhack to the Major’s brain, making her doubt the integrity of her employers. Kuze’s ambiguous morality in all this is at least very much in style of just about every Ghost in the Shell adaptation ever made — the antagonists you can look in the eye always have a some kind of justification for their actions, while the invisible governmental and corporate forces provide the true irredeemable villainy.
I get the impression that the Major switches to this red costume after going rogue and trying to find out the truth on her own, with no backup from the Section 9.
Another masked scene cut, here, as the Major’s casual red outfit suddenly turns into her assault uniform. I believe that this scene of her being electrocuted is from a much earlier point in the film, and will play a part in her going out on her own.
The first face shot of Kuze in the trailer, confirming what everybody already knew — that he is a full-prosthetic cyborg, undoubtedly from the very same project as the Major. I wonder what purpose those ‘tattoos’ of his serve? Do they suggest an allegiance with the Yakuza-types we’ve seen before in these trailers?
I am not very fond of this image for the reasons I’ve had to explain in length in some comment sections. Once again, my problem with the visual is the lack of solid feel, emphasising the artificiality of the CGI for the sake of what seems to be rather heavy-handed symbolism. It also seems to contradict the way the Making of a Cyborg-sequence shows cyborg skin being applied, as one solid mass with no seams or cuts — assuming ofcourse that this one part isn’t going to be changed for the live-action.
“How many were there before me?”
Again, suggesting that the Major is supposed to be just a replaceable tool for the Section 9, or at least this is what she believes, now. Did Aramaki know where his cyborgs came from, or did he just turn a blind eye? This is all very, very different from the source material, but at least there are new questions waiting to be answered. I would have preferred a unique plot relating to the characters’ future, rather than the past, but oh well...
“She was supposed to have a clean brain. I order you to terminate.”
Yeah, this is our real bad guy, the corporate/governmental stooge who was undoubtedly behind the Major’s cyborg conversion, and perhaps even the ‘accident’ that led to it. Again, this is all a bit too Robocop for my comfort, and doesn’t really fit in the setting of GitS as we’re used to seeing it, but I guess we’ll have to wait and see how it ends, no?
And just to emphasise that, now we see her breaking into a some kind of official facility that really should have invested in more security than an ordinary guy with a nightstick.
A giant spider-tank does the job, I guess. Ofcourse I have no idea if these two scenes are in any way related or not. The tank’s design is lifted directly from the 1995 film, like so many things in this flick. I really hope that this is not directly from the climax — it would be incredibly disappointing to see that sequence duplicated exactly, no matter how great it was, originally. We’ve got a mostly original (well, ‘original’) plot, so how about give us an original ending?
OK, this is a bit of a surprise, it almost looks like Kuze and the Major are engaged against the spider-tank side by side. I mean, it didn’t take a genius to see that the two would side up with each other at some point, but still.
And after some previously seen footage, the trailer ends with some more cheesy dialogue: “They created me, but they cannot control me.”
And that was that. For my final thoughts, I have to say that my opinion of Scarlett Johansson’s acting has ever so slightly improved — like they only picked awkward shots for the previous trailer. She can do the voice and the sense of gravital required from the Major, after all. On the other hand, my opinion about the dialogue she, and everyone else, is given, hasn’t improved. These are some of the most generic one-liners I’ve heard in a long time. I can only hope that they are just compulsory trailer-fodder and that the film itself will feature a bit more natural-sounding dialogue.
I still wonder what the point of setting the film to Japan was, when almost everybody in it either is, or tries to pass for, an American. They could have just moved the whole thing to the US and been done with it.
A lot of the character dynamics seem to have changed a fair deal from the rest of the franchise — only Batou and the Major seem to have kept their close but professional relationship, and even in that it feels that the Major has been brought down a peg, from his immediate superior to his subordinate, or at least a colleague. I am not fond of new characters brought in who are supposed to be an intricate part of the Major’s backstory; it is one of those things that I don’t think necessarily needs to be fleshed out, and may result in a weaker character. But it seems that superhero origin stories are still in demand, and that’s what it seems we’re going to be getting from this flick.
In any case, come 31st March, and I’ll go watch this in theatres, and see if I’ll get a happy surprise, or find even greater disappointment than I could have expected.