This time, we review the robotic crime thriller Ghost in the Shell movie (2017) and in today’s episode we explore if this version of Tokyo exists in an alternate reality, how much does this film borrow from Blade Runner, and did Ghost in the Shell really start the conversation of “whitewashing” in Hollywood? Let’s dig in….
Ghost in the Shell movie cast
Directed by Rupert Sanders: Prior to taking on Ghost in the Shell, Sanders was well-known for directing Snow White and the Huntsmen which was a darker take on the classic fairy tale starring Kristen Stewart and Chris Hemsworth. However, Sanders' personal life would be thrown into disarray following leaked photos of him and fellow actress Kristen Stewart carrying on an illicit affair.
Scarlett Johansson as Major: Johansson was a well-established star at the time of this film having appeared in multiple films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Margot Robbie passed on this role in order to star as Harley Quinn in the DC Extended Universe and Johansson signed on for a cool $10 million payday. See our review on the film Her where we discussed Johansson as well.
Pilou Asbæk as Batou: Game of Thrones fans will recognize Asbæk after he appeared in the last several seasons of the show, but has mostly appeared in Danish cinema since he came on the scene beginning around 2009.
Juliette Binoche as Dr. Ouelet: Binoche has been an acclaimed actress for over 30 years and rose to international prominence following her Academy Award performance in the war epic The English Patient and then alongside Johnny Depp in Chocolat. There’s a noted lack of female diversity in the film and Binoche offers a sort of maternal care and identity to Major throughout the film.
Michael Carmen Pitt as Kuze: Fans of the show Boardwalk Empire will recognize Pitt following his performance as Jimmy on the show for which he earned numerous award nominations. However, there are times in the film that we forget he’s even in the film. There are long stretches where he is not seen and he isn’t a constant presence as he is initially feared to be.
“Beat” Takashi Kitano as Aramaki
Chin Han as Togusa
Peter Ferdinando as Cutter
Ghost in the Shell Manga: From the Page to the Screen
Ghost in the Shell is actually the English name for a Japanese manga and entertainment franchise that was originally known as Mobile Armored Riot Police. The manga series ran for a year and a half during 1989 to the near end of 1990.
The plot of the manga and the film remain mostly unchanged; an elite police squadron named Section 9 is tasked with hunting down and eliminating cyber criminals in a cyber-punk dystopian version of Japan in the near future. The top cop in this unit is Major Motoko Kusanagi was anglicized for the film to Mira Killian, but the original name was kept for the human whose brain is placed into the robotic shell.
The English version of the manga didn’t make its way to America until 1995 when Dark Horse Comics published a one volume translation of the manga with an anime adaptation premiering in the same year with a sequel that followed in 2004. Beginning in 2002, a television cartoon was developed consisting of two season and 26 episodes. Much of the imagery showcased in the films and the cartoon do make its way into the film due to Rupert Sanders being a self-proclaimed “mega fan” of the series.
In 2008, DreamWorks Pictures and Steven Spielberg acquired the rights to produce a live action film adaptation, but Spielberg would eventually drop out of the production enlisting other producers and filmmakers to eventually bring the manga to the big screen.
Margot Robbie was the first choice to play Major, but when she passed on the project, the role was offered to Johansson with the rest of the cast announced in 2016. The casting of Johansson to play Major caused controversy with critics of the film accusing the film of “whitewashing” the manga.