Will Steven Spielberg Eviscerate "Ghost in the Shell"?

Illustration for article titled Will Steven Spielberg Eviscerate Ghost in the Shell?

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.

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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.

Illustration for article titled Will Steven Spielberg Eviscerate Ghost in the Shell?
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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.

Dreamworks Doing 3D Live Action Version of Ghost in the Shell [Quiet Earth]

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DISCUSSION

I'm not sure that AI didn't match Kubrick's vison of the film. In fact, it may have even exceeded it. Kubrick was a visionary director, no doubt. But he was also responsible for some fairly awful films that just failed to connect, namely Barry Lyndon and Eyes Wide Shut. It's not really clear that Kubrick would have made a film that was much different.

I think that characterizing Spielberg as a director who has been succesful by throwing money at his projects is unfair. Spielberg has shown that he can take on movies with a serious subject matter and break expectations that have been imposed on him on account of his prior works. He's demonstrated that he has considerable range as a director. Here is a guy who not only directed Jaws, ET, Indiana Jones, Jurassic Park, and Close Encounters, but also Amistad, Minority Report, Schindlers List, Amistad, Catch Me If You Can, Saving Private Ryan, Munich, the Color Purple, and Empire of the Sun.

It's frequently the case that movies aren't made to satiate the desires of fans, and that will probably be true for Ghost in the Machine and Akira. In all liklihood Spielberg will do as any other director would, make a movie that is comprehensible and enjoyable to a larger, more diverse audience then the small subset of comic book fans. And in a few cases the material is compelling enough to actually benefit from that sort of treatment.