The Ghost in the Shell anime has been considered one of the classics since its release in 1995. After Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex's syndication in the United States, many Americans came to love the franchise's poignant themes and compelling soundtracks. That's probably why it made waves when it was announced that the live-action Ghost in the Shell production was finally coming to Western audiences.
Of course, the rose-colored glasses didn't last long. Ghost in the Shell thrust itself into controversy early on with its decision to partake in one of Hollywood's sketchiest traditions. Sure, almost any film is open to casting controversies, but casting Polish American Scarlett Johansson as the Japanese character Motoko Kusanagi certainly didn't help much.
Whitewashing aside, Ghost in the Shell still has plenty of magic happening backstage. Its lauded visual effects will likely inspire the industry for years to come. Here's a list of everything you would want to know about DreamWorks' Ghost in the Shell.
Particularly observant viewers may notice that, despite taking place in a cyber-future, there are absolutely no screens in the entirety of Ghost in the Shell. The creative lead for Territory Studio, Peter Eszenyi, told Adobe Blog he wanted the movie's holograms to be a part of the environment rather than a background prop. Territory used Adobe products to create the "hologlobe" concepts that appear throughout the movie, rendering displays in 3D space instead of on screens.
After creating concepts and assets, Territory delivered them to the main visual effects team for inclusion in Ghost in the Shell.
DreamWorks bought the rights to Ghost in the Shell back in 2008, marking almost nine years before the live-action film came to be. Part of this was caused by the difficulty of translating the anime series to American screens. The process claimed multiple executives, screenwriters, and directors over development.
Early on, the movie even included Steven Spielberg, who was on the bill for six years, trying to get Ghost in the Shell into production. It was reportedly Spielberg himself who had requested Rupert Sanders to direct the film.
It was almost a different world, in which Margot Robbie faced the blowback for her casting in Ghost in the Shell instead of Scarlett Johansson. Robbie engaged in talks with DreamWorks executives after her acclaimed performance in The Wolf of Wall Street.
Long before talks could come to a close, however, Robbie was approached for Warner Bros. Pictures' Suicide Squad. She chose to go with the DC movie instead, which was probably for the best considering the controversy ScarJo's casting brought.
Many Asian American critics found the casting of Scarlett Johansson to be insensitive at best and narrow-minded at worst. The issue lies in the fact there are relatively few jobs in Hollywood available to Asian actors and actresses. While Ghost in the Shell tried to embrace its whitewashing with a body-switching plot, it doesn't change the fact the role of the Major could have been used to help an Asian American actress's career rather than further cement Johansson's.
Some critics have also pointed out Ghost in the Shell doesn't successfully carry off its transracial plotline. The film explains why two of the main characters have white bodies, but it doesn't even touch on the lack of diversity of the movie's setting, taking some of the bite away from the twist ending. Simultaneously, the film was criticized for whitewashing the behaviors of the white Japanese characters.