Ghost in the Shell Live Action

What exactly is the definition of human in a society where a mind can be copied and the body replaced with a fully synthetic body? Where is the boundary between human and machine when the differences between the two become more philosophical than physical? Ultimately how do we define what it is to be human?

I’m not going to try and answer this today but these are the philosophical questions that form the basis of the futuristic manga and anime series Ghost in the Shell created by Masamune Shirow (first published in 1989). Whilst being nearly 30 years old the franchise is still alive and well with three movies, a TV series, a game and a trilogy of novels being spawned from it along with many aspects having slowly percolated into popular culture (it heavily inspired The Matrix).

With such a strong pedigree it’s rather worrying that Production I.G has sold the rights for a live-action movie to DreamWorks under the direction of none other than Steven Spielberg. For fans, this is a pretty worrying development. Whilst there is no denying Spielberg’s talent it’s an altogether different proposition when applying it to something like this, the main fear is that it will be severely dumbed down for a Hollywood audience.

If they can respect and stay faithful to the original maybe this has a chance but then again the likelihood of that is pretty low – the precedent is already pretty well established for ruining Asian cult classics.

Update (10/2009): Apparently Dreamworks has hired Laeta Kalogridis as lead writer (who also worked on one of the Tomb Raider movies) along with Avi Arad (formerly of Marvel) and Steven Paul to produce what’s being called a “3D live-action film”. Does anyone care to speculate what that means?

David avatar

117 responses

  1. Charlie avatar

    I personally feel that this film will lack the depth, and philosophical ideals that the series conveyed, I think Hollywood has a habit of removing any contect that is considered either offensive to ANYONE or too intelligent for the average person to understand, take for example a favourite of mine phillip pullmans northern lights , or golden compass as some if you may know it as, the depth and religious and philisophical ideas of this book were completely abandoned by the film and it was a complete flop. It does anger me slightly as this was a creation of an English author and I’m English myself so to see something that means a great deal to me be absolutely butchered in this way is mortifying and I’m sure any passionate and loyal fan of gits will feel the same way if it happens to this film.

    1. Isn’t that what I said Charlie, xD.

  2. Charlie avatar

    Oh and PS. I love my tachikoma!!

  3. diakrite avatar

    Oh Noes!! This is gonna be about as intellectually challenging as “ultraviolet”. (As close to a rip-off you can get) and then some.

    The money-making has to be served, soo, Motoko will probably be portrayed by Jessica Simpson or sumptin’ “as long as she is blonde”… Batou? Let’s take a wild guess: Vin Diesel… Chief Aramaki? Patrick Steward with a wig…..


  4. QuickSilver avatar

    They need to get Ridley Scott to direct it if they are actually going to make it.

  5. Out of interest is anyone watching the new show “Caprica”? There are a LOT of similar themes with GITS. What do people think of it?

    1. john avatar

      love Caprica!!!
      cant wait to see the fall season.

    2. alex avatar

      i heard that a new season of ghost in the shell tv show is coming in the year 2013 but its just a rumor

  6. William Regynski avatar
    William Regynski

    Give it a chance. Even though I hated Transformers, it was the excessively poor plot and script that sucked. Spielberg has gone the right direction and gotten the right director for the movie. If the screenplay is worth a flip then the movie will be. Personally, I have been waiting for an attempt at a live action version of GHOST IN THE SHELL for some time. I have all of the GITS episodes and movies in English and in Japanese and I believe spielberg will do an admirable job if given a chance.

    1. Timber avatar

      Can’t trust a screenplay. The ORIGINAL screenplay for the last Highlander movie was promising….the RESULT that ended up on film after more than a dozen editors got done with it ABSOLUTELY SUCKED!!!!!

  7. IsmaVA avatar

    Man, most of the comments here are plainly ridiculous! I mean, I LOVE the original GITS, and I am still troubled and amazed at the deep philosophical questions it raised . . . the two miniseries were also great (who can forget the tachikomas sacrificing themselves to save Batou!?, or the Boy and girl pair and the origami cranes!?), the two movies not so much, but . . .

    Hollywood’s interest in a live action version, good or bad, can only increase the penetration of this great movie into the rest of the world. Even if the live action movie sucks royally, at least a lot more people will now of GITS and I am sure some might even watch the original.

    There is ABSOLUTELY NO WAY that a sucky live action version is going to diminish the value of the original.

    I don’t know, to me this is a win-win situation for all of us fans, IMHO.

  8. will avatar

    yo GITS will might or might not be good live actio but they should make it close as poss to orig maybe an all japanese cast or jessica simpson with who ever as long as its jessica simpson cause she is soo dang hooottttt

  9. Billl avatar

    Tbh James Cameron Cited That Ghost In The Shell Is A Huge Influence But Only Through A Collaboration Of Spielberg’s Older Mind/Cameron’s Mind And Other Directors With A Clue Would This Actually Be Done.

    Even So It’ll Suck Because I Mean Every Live Action Film From Anime Has Been Turd And Will Lack Substance. Only Drawings Can Capture The Stunning Visuals And Fine Detail. And Besides No Women Can Be As Slim As Motoko And Have Jugs Like That. Cyborgs Ain’t Real Yet So Lets Give It A While Before We Try A Live Action GITS Film Kay?

  10. Wild Icon avatar
    Wild Icon

    With Steven Spielburg, and James Cameron together could pull this off, as long as the script was kept as gritty as the Manga, and the original GitS movie. Sorry kids but the movie has to be at least 18A to pull it off. Gits cannot have the Tachicomas in it either, just like the original Ghost in the Shell.

    1. Fuchikoma and Tachikoma are part of the series, they should be part of any movie made on the subject as they are important to the storyline. The omission of them in the “original” movie (please read my comments below to understand my utter disdain for the 1996 Oshii rendition of GitS) is another fault with the 1996 movie.

  11. hypr. avatar

    i wish Hollywood bigshots wouldnt buyout decently made tv/film/anime series like GitS, so they can turn it to shit or either get lucky and do it very well.

    and this^ is prove that very little people have original ideas anymore, most films getting made now are either remakes, a sad excuse to add to a series (Predators), live action versions (The Last Airbender) of something else or have been derived from comics/graphic novels/books (Marmaduke, Scott Pilgrim etc.) the fact people take books and turn them into films isnt so bad cause it gives a visual perspective but the others are just bad excuses IMO.

    just leave it to the Japanese please, its safe in their hands. yeah it may not end up being world renowned, but fuck who cares… as long as those who appreciate know it exists then it’s all good IMO.

  12. Alperen avatar

    If the live action of GitS turns out like the live action of the last airbender, then its going to suck. And it shouldnt, because GitS is the best and most mature and philosophical anime series out there. I wish they would make a 3rd GiG or S.A.C. II

  13. PLEASE PLEASE don’t make a live action movie of the disastrous misinterpretation of Shirow’s work done by Marmoru Oshii in 1996. The “Ghost In The Shell” 1996 movie was not representative of what Shirow wanted to express. For one thing the director of animation in the 1996 movie admitted to “changing Kusangi’s age” because he felt she was “more mature” and “needed to be older.” Shirow’s point in GitS was to show what society would be like were man and machine almost interchangeable. Also, in the Manga it’s pointed out that Kusanagi actually is older than she appears physically. What the director of animation did was the equivalent of changing a brushstroke on a Picasso because he felt it was “too impressionistic.”

    A similar change, also made by the director of animation, was the fact that the body Kusanagi ends up in the end of the movie is a little girl as opposed to a man. In the original manga she ended up with a man’s body (although “he” looked feminine by virtue of the fact that he was a cross dresser… this is why Batou made the mistake and stole a body of the wrong gender). 🙂

    Even Shirow is quoted as saying “This is not my Ghost In the Shell.” (I know I heard this, but couldn’t tell you where I did…).

    I would like to see the movie drawn from two sources:

    1) The manga… and
    2) The Ghost In The Shell: Stand Alone Complex and 2nd Gig series.

    Don’t get me wrong. I liked the 1996 movie, but it clashes with Shirow’s philosophy.

    Sincerely, GC

  14. kurtnelle avatar

    I have to agree that this will expose more ppl to the original series; Avatar, the last airbender is case in point. It has promped people to watch the original, and they love it. Perhaps, that was the point of the movie to begin with. I don’t mind what they do it is so long as they get Yoko to make the music

    1. Wild Icon avatar
      Wild Icon

      Yes I concur, Yoko Kanno should compose the score fo rthe movie as it would be complete then, however it was Kanji Kawai who composed for the original Ghost in the Shell. Both artist are amazing in their own rights, and I think it would be great if they both wewe to contribute to the movie score.

  15. […] some old news that I only heard at Dragon*Con last week: there are plans for a live action version of Ghost in the Shell. Kind of surprised to hear about this so late, given how obviously we all love GitS on here. There […]

  16. Marlon avatar

    wow. i believe youre right about the ‘dumbed’ part. they should have gotten the director of the first 2 ghost in the shell movies. they were done extremely well. maybe spielberg only has the rights in USA although of course im wishing it was the case.. i dont know. oh well. ill see it anyways.

  17. Daniel avatar

    Of course they are going to dumb it down, because many people can’t handle actually thinking about what they are watching. Yet who knows the outcome, maybe it is actually good and worth going to see, or maybe its like the badly made Dragon Ball live action, which in many peoples opinion was a box office failure. But whether or not its a win or epic failure, I will always be a fan of the animated series for its storyline, character design, and the fact that each moment made you think and it took an extra step in the perception of what the future is like.

  18. Sirius avatar

    Christopher Nolan should do it!!

    1. Now there’s a good idea! Something is telling me this movie is never going to get made though – the likes of The Matrix and Inception have already covered the genre fairly well and anything else is going to seem derivatory even though GITS was the original.

      1. Wild Icon avatar
        Wild Icon

        Ghost in the Shell, if done properly, could be what fans are waiting for. There is no harm in doing a live action version, as long as the producers make it there own, Don’t Americanize it, and keep to the original mood of the story. They should pull it off. Put simply the script is right in front of them, they just have to use it.

    2. Marlon avatar

      yes that would be great. Nolan!

    3. Funaki avatar

      Yes! Nolan!!! He can make a movie that people would watch many times even without a sexy scene!!!! lol hehhe

  19. If someone were to actually make this film the way it should be made, it could possibly revolutionize modern Hollywood. Of course capitalism and making money would not change from the industry, but artistry in American movies could give hope to the future of American cinema. I would love to try and make this film the way it should be made, and would not hesitate at the opportunity. But I am not rich or lucky so I greatly fear for Ghost in the Shell live action.

  20. SonicEvolution avatar

    I have to agree that this has epic fail written all over it. I mean if anybody were to attempt this. I say it be the Wachowski Brothers. I mean at least I know they would do it proper justice. I mean it’s no secret that the Matrix was heavily influenced by GIAS. The only other choice would be James Cameron but he is doing Battle Angel which at least has some hope. What I don’t get is why Hollywood is so afraid of staying true to the source. I mean that is what made it popular in the first place. Every adaption with the exception of Transformers has been an epic fail. I don’t even need to mention DBZ and worse yet that piece of epic crap is getting a sequel lol. Although you guys need to check out this link. Some crazy DBZ CG art which makes me wanna cry. Now why couldn’t DBZ have been like that. It would have been epic.

    This is one of the few crown jewels that anime has to offer. So it troubles me deeply that DreamWorks got the rights to it. The only reason Production I.G. gave the green light was because of Steven Spielberg’s interest in it. It is always possible that somehow by some miracle this could turn out being good. Although with Hollywood’s current track record I am not holding my breath. The only good news in this long list of adaption nightmares is the Evangelion which was also under consideration is currently MIA. Thank good of small favors.favors as at least one has managed to slip though with it’s degintiy intact.

  21. Ghostwolf avatar

    If the script (screenplay) and direction were to be a collaboration between Spielberg and James Cameron, I don’t see that the film would be near as likely to fail. these are two of the best minds in the business. Even though Cameron is busy with the next Avatar (which probably will not be as good as the first, good but not as good as) he would probably be interested in the challenges offered by this film.

  22. Lyconman avatar

    I do agree that James Cameron should direct it. I like Steven Spielberg but for movies like Indiana Jones and Star Wars.
    Last time he tried to take over a serious relevant project was the A.I. and it was a big blunder. Instead of Articial Inteligence he gave us the story of Pinochio.
    If Motoko is not Japanese looking I will not buy into this. No DVD/no Blue Ray purchase

  23. Its Auto avatar
    Its Auto

    i agree with the comments above that James Cameron should do it. Reason? He is the most unoriginal director out there, but is fantastic at taking other peoples work and making it into a box office success. If anyone was gonna do ‘Ghost in the Shell’ any justice, it’d be him, as he’d have nothing ‘new’ to add to it, just a visually impressive adaptation staying true to the source material! Case in point; ‘Aliens’ – the exact same movie as ‘Alien’, (go to planet, find derelict, guy facehugged, lots of running through industral corridoors, intense self-destruct sequence, massive explosion…we’re all safe – no wait, theres one on the ship, blow it out of the airlock.) same movie, same turn of events in the same order, just with the horror element stripped and throw in a marine squad and powerloader – he recently did the same thing with Pochontas; same story, big budget, throw in some marines and a mech, and called it ‘Avatar’. In fact look at any of his movies (Terminator 2 is ‘The Terminator’ with more terminators, Titanic speaks for itself, lolz) so i give Cameron the thumbs up for ‘Ghost in the Shell’, as we know it’d be safe due to him not being able to make anything of his own, but fantastic visuals! 😉 Face it, if we ever wanna see some Fuchikoma action, or experience being plugged into the net in glorious 3D, he’ss the man for the job. My only fear is that Kusanagi would be an aged Sigourney Weaver in a short purple wig XD

    1. Its Auto avatar
      Its Auto

      actually – no, there is another fear with that; he’d have James Horner do the music, and we’d have to listen to the exact same soundtrack he’s used for every movie he ever ‘composed’ for XD (When the Na’vi’s tree burned down in ‘Avatar’ and the music kicked in, can you honestly say you didnt picture a German soldier looking down a scope for a Russian sniper?) Hmm… Yeah, scrap Cameron, lolz.

  24. Timber avatar

    Besides concerns of them dumbing it down, I’m afraid most American audiences, through ignorance, are going to think the movie is just a rip-off of Blade Runner — not knowing the provenance & franchise. The two had a lot in common. Asked some of the same questions.
    You know they will dumb it down, because let’s face it, has anyone actually SEEN an intelligent movie in the last 10 years? I haven’t, have you?
    As Peter Wingfield reminded Highlander fans after the abomination of Highlander: The Source, it’s a business. Hollywood’s proven M.O. of late is to try to recapture the same or greater profits of ‘classics’ w half the work and investment. It’s all down to the lowest common denominator.
    Rarely does Spielberg even sit in the director chair anymore. So maybe if he produced, and gave the actual direction over to a Japanese director, or at least an American director whose had some success in the dark fantasy genre…..maybe the director of the first few Underworlds. The only way this work is if you get someone who has invested emotionally in the material. Whose a fan. Maybe even the Matrix boys.
    But I’ve been burned so many times in the Highlander universe that as much as I would LOVE a live-action of GitS, I’m leery. Hollywood’s track record for treating fandoms like this with respect & dignity is absolutely ZERO.

  25. Kugutsuuta avatar

    I hate to say this but Spielberg is busy right now doing “BE A MARINE!!!” kind of films.

  26. Nevermind having Speilburg or Cameron on this film . That two guy can cost production lots of money knowing they can deliver the movie and profit alot from it. But, have people forgot all about Christ Nolan (BATMAN), let Christ Nolan direct this and you can get all the suspend and action in one film.

    talking about who can star Motoko.
    Jessica Biel or Kate Beckinsale or maybe someone new with great action acting experience.


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