Ghost in the Shell, a classic anime cyberpunk flick from the 1990s, has mesmerized fans for years with its brutal-but-philosophical story of what happens to a woman's identity when she merges with technology on physical and psychological levels. Set in 2029, the movie starts out as a pure actioner with our cybercop hero Motoko sleuthing to stop terrorists in New Port City. But as Motoko's fate becomes intertwined with an anomalous, self-defining A.I., the movie veers into 2001-ish surrealism. At last, this brainfarm flick is getting an English remake, but unfortunately it's care of Steven Spielberg.
And he wants to turn it into a live-action 3D movie. Written by Jamie Moss, whose only other work was on Street Kings, a cop actioner currently in theaters. I've actually been wanting to see Street Kings (Keanu Reeves is not Moss' fault, after all) and I like the idea of bringing in a writer with a flair for cop action. Ghost in the Shell is, after all, a cop movie. The main plot arc involves solving a crime of the future: non-consensual brain hacking. And I'm willing to admit Spielberg did make one hell of a slick, menacing dystopia in A.I. — as long as you ignore the egregiously awful ending.
Still, I'm worried the film will lose its freaky philosophical edge when translated into Spielbergese. This is a complicated story based on a famous manga series, which has spawned several movie sequels, games, and TV shows in Japan. Fans are going to have high expectations, and throwing lots of Dreamworks money at the movie to meet those expectations isn't the right way to go. Sure we want to see some awesome effects, and a fully-realized New Port City. But we really need good writing and plotting to make sure nothing is lost in translation.