Already it’s the most hotly anticipated film of the year by fans of manga and cyberpunk and Ghost In The Shell has certainly been a long time coming. Although there have been three animated films released since1995 this is the first time that live action has been used.
The strength of the franchise is underlined by the fact that it’s a full 28 years since the original comic appeared in 1989 and it’s still going strong – and there have been many variations on the theme along the way.
Keen followers of the genre will know that the original comic was the brainchild of artist Masamune Shirow and first introduced the crack anti-cyberterrorism force Public Security Section 9 to the world. The comic was an immediate hit and additional stories were released right up until 2003.
In 1997, eight years after the original story was published, it made its first appearance in a video game. Called, unsurprisingly, “Ghost In The Shell” it was a third-person shooter game for Playstation with the player controlling a spider-shaped robot called Fuchikoma on a quest to destroy enemies. The script for the game was written by Masamune Shirow and it even featured some of the voice artists from the 1995 animated film. It was a great critical hit and many reviewers thought it was one of the best manga and anime-themed games ever created.
One of the more unusual manifestations of the franchise has been in the development of a Ghost in the Shell slots game that features key characters from the manga comic and which uses the same very distinctive illustrative style for the symbols and characters on the reels. With five reels and nine paylines it’s a real favourite with both manga and slots fans – not least for the progressive jackpot that can mean a big windfall at any time.
Of course, despite all of these predecessors, all the focus in 2017 is going to be on the blockbusting new film. It’s due to be released in March after a long period of development. It was nine years ago in 2008 when Stephen Spielberg acquired the rights to make a live-action version of the story through his Dreamworks production company.
In the intervening years a number of writers have been associated with the project but the ones who made it through to the finished film were scriptwriters Jonathan Herman and Jamie Ross. Starring in the film as The Major is Scarlett Johannson who reportedly received a $10 million fee for the role. Other cast members include Juliette Binoche and Takeshi Kitano.
Mainly filmed in New Zealand with some scenes in Hong Kong, details of the precise plot are being kept firmly under wraps but we can expect an epic battle between Public Security Section 9, led by Johannson, and a dangerous group of cyber-terrorists hell-bent on wreaking havoc.
Whether it will manage to capture the essence of the original comic we’ll just have to wait and see. But with a stellar cast and the guiding influence of Spielberg behind it, hopes are very high that it will.
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