artisanal film reviews | by maryann johanson
Fri Apr 15 2016, 06:40pm | 6 comments
So it’s OK to put funny-looking foreign people in the end product that the public pays for, just as long as the filmmakers don’t have to look at (or, even worse, employ) people like that themselves.
This is tricky. It could be argued that since Major Kusanagi is a full body cyborg, she could be played by anyone. The filmmakers could claim that no one really knows definitively how old the Major is or where is she’s from (although she’s obviously lived and worked in japan for a long time and SAC strongly hints that she’s Japanese). It could also be argued that using CGI to make Johansson’s face appear more perfect and racially ambiguous would help give the Major’s face its characteristic uncanny valley, frozen-face appearance. Any of those reasons would indicate that at least some thought had gone into making what was an ultimately poor decision.
Unfortunately, none of that seems to have happened here. Just another case of producers refusing to finance a film unless a big name is attached and then reacting to the frankly unsurprising negative buzz (Dragonball, The Last Airbender, Aloha, Edge of Tomorrow, Dr. Strange… Hollywood really does not have confidence in the mainstream appeal of asian actors) in the worst way possible, reducing the experience of being asian to a couple minutes of photoshop warp. Kinda reminds me of the kids that scrunched up their eyes to pretend to be “chinese” when I was young. Thank goodness the filmmakers came to their senses early on.
Would mainstream audiences be willing to watch a big-budget, live action GitS movie starring an asian actress? It would be nice to discover the answer, but I guess we’ll never know. I’d argue that the cold, surface-level mannerisms of Japanese culture add a distinctive atmosphere to the GitS world that is difficult to simulate, even with skilled acting. It’s weird enough that the Major isn’t Japanese, it’s going to be super weird if the most important members of Section 9 also aren’t Japanese (other than Batou) unless the setting isn’t Japan which will be even weirder.
Everything about this project is lowering my expectations: the directors, the writers, the actors – almost everyone feels like a bad match for the material. It’s ironic that the writers’ most famous films are Street Kings, and Straight Outta Compton, two films that have something to say about the potential complexities of thoughtlessly appropriating aspects of other cultures. Even the producers have nothing but a string of horrible movies to their names with the exception of the original Iron Man.
Oh, and how much do you wanna bet that the fan-servicey cyborg construction scene will be lovingly recreated using state of the art CGI, out of respect for the source material of course, while the philosophical banter and Tachikomas will be dialed way back to open up space for more ScarJo action scenes? I’m not even a huge GitS fan (although I do love the second movie and the Tachikomas in SAC) and I’m already kinda bummed. We’ll see, maybe it’ll turn out surprisingly good? At least if it does well, we may finally get that Black Widow movie. Yay?
I forecast mindless action with bonus fanservice; it will do badly at the box office, and this will be used as evidence that films with female leads do badly.
Yeah, that’s what I’m afraid of too – sort of a cross between Lucy and that horrible Aeon Flux movie. I have trouble imagining these writers coming up with a script that is genuinely thought provoking in any way. And even if they did, I can’t see any studio/producers shelling out the money for Johansson without demanding gratuitous fan service. I’m sure they all saw the financial success of Ex Machina and wanted a piece of the pie.
My modest hope is that most of the fan service maintains the creepy, passionless, uncanny valley feel of the original material instead of just reverting to flattering cheesecake like most of the Ex Machina shots of Ava.
Michelle Yeoh or Yukari Oshima would have been perfect for this role in the mid to late 90’s. Jeeja Yanin would be amazing in the action scenes, but I’m not sure her English is up to snuff. Bae Doona or Zhang Ziyi would both be good choices. Rinko Kikuchi would be a great fit. Rila Fukushima would also be perfect – I liked her a lot in Wolverine. Arden Cho is another good option. I’m not a Li Bingbing, Kelly Hu, or Lucy Liu fan, but even they’re all better choices than SJ.
It would have been so easy to find someone who at least slightly resembled the Major. Of course, if they had faith in the film, they’d consider bringing in someone brand new with genuine martial arts experience or maybe a professional dancer. I still have a tiny bit of hope that SJ and the script will bring something other than fanservice and bullets to the table. If her costume turns out to be that ludicrous leotard/leather jacket/pantsless belt combo from the first season of SAC though, I’m officially out. That shit was embarrassing.
Why on earth??? Somehow they have thought up a way to make a live action version of “Ghost in the Shell” even more pointless and upsetting. “Ghost in the Shell” isn’t “Lucy,” if anything it’s more like a combination of “Robocop,” “Bladerunner,” and “Her.”
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