Ghost in the Shell is set to get a live action remake sometime soon. Today Scarlett
Johansson officially signed on to play the lead role. In recent years, her portrayals of Lucy and Black Widow cemented her action star status and acclaim from both critics and fans. It’s a well-deserved distinction, and I’m definitely one of those fans, but still I think in this instance she might have been the wrong casting choice.
Ghost in the Shell already has a rich history, starting as a manga series in the 80’s. Mamoru Oshii adapted it into two anime films in 1995 and 2004, not to mention several video game adaptations and a TV series on Animax. Steven Spielberg and DreamWorks acquired the film rights back in 2008. Since then, writers, producers, and potential cast members have flip-flopped frequently. At this moment, Rupert Sanders will direct a William Wheeler screenplay. Johansson replaced Margot Robbie for the lead role.
The story is set in a futuristic version of Japan in the fictional New Port City. In this cyber-punk narrative humans are able to replace parts or all of their brains and bodies with cybernetic elements. The protagonist, Major Motoko Kusanagi, is predominantly cyborg due to a childhood accident. Hackers, such as the Puppet Master, have the ability to take over and bend cyborg humans to their will, and this was the major plot line in the first anime version of Ghost in the Shell. It will also likely be the story line for the upcoming live film version and is part of the issue with Johansson as the lead.
Up until now her action roles have been fairly straight forward, not to say that she hasn’t played them well and that she isn’t a talented actress. Still, the role of Major Motoko Kusanagi isn’t really an action role in the way that Black Widow is and it may not be a role which Johansson is ideal for, unless of course Hollywood intends to simply use the title and not much else in the way of original content, which isn’t outside the realm of possibility.
The other issue is the much more obvious issue. New Port City is a Japanese city populated by Japanese characters, none of whom look much like the blond Johansson. While the film industry is famous its lack of diversity and failure to cast minorities in lead roles, this choice is still a disappointment, especially with actresses like Rinko Kikuchi, who has many nuanced roles better suited for the part getting ignored.
I am a big fan of cyber-punk and would love to see a well done live version of Ghost in the Shell. I think I’d like to see a version of it starring Rinko Kikuchi. Johansson is a wonderful actress, but I think that this role shouldn’t have been offered to her. It’s a shame that in 2015 movies are still being white washed to make box office numbers in favor of actually making art. Let me know what you think in the comments section.