Ghost in the Shell, based on the manga and 1995 anime film, is coming to theaters at the end of March, and fans got an IMAX 3D preview tonight.
I was amongst the nearly 500 attendees of the New York City fan event – similar to what Marvel has done for Guardians of the Galaxy and Doctor Strange in recent years, except with the addition of props from the film and a green-screen photo-op setup. The experience as a whole was good, but some people didn’t realize that the full film wasn’t being screened (despite the passes saying that it wasn’t the full film) and were left sitting in the cushy IMAX seats eating their movie snacks as everyone else made their way out of the theater.
The sneak peek of Ghost in the Shell previewed the first ten or so minutes of the film, showing how Mira Killian (Scarlett Johansson) becomes Major, a member of Section 9, a division of the police force in neo-futuristic Japan focused on cyber-crime. Literal cyber-crime, mind you, as artificial intelligence and cybernetic enhancements are widespread in this not too potentially distant future. The footage itself was of the shelling sequence, Mira waking up in her new body, and a stakeout of a banquet dinner turned shoot-em-up and hacking by robo-geishas, glimpsed in the first trailer, before making way for a sizzle reel that was cut from the recent trailer (below).
Overall, the visuals and production design look stunning – although the holographic ads and winding freeways of the cityscape look like they’re pulled from Blade Runner, and Major’s raid on the hacking borrows some Bullet Time from The Matrix trilogy. Scarlett Johansson, heavily featured in the scenes, is good as Mira/Major; Pilou Asbæk (Euron Greyjoy on Game of Thrones) makes an appearance as Batou; Juliette Binoche is Dr. Ouelet, Mira’s savior; Takeshi Kitano appears as Aramaki, Major’s superior; and believe it or not, but Rila Fukushima (from The Wolverine and Arrow) was the basis for the robo-geishas and portrayed one in the sequence.
However, the fly in the ointment (or the elephant in the room, if you prefer) is the whitewashing of Asian protagonists, which has been hanging over the film since Scarlett Johannson was cast as Major. Yes, there are Asian cast members, but it still stands that an Asian female lead was replaced with a Caucasian female lead who’s guaranteed to get people to show up to see the film in theaters – which is unfortunate. Rob Trench over at Talk Film Society also attended one of the fan events and discussed this in his write-up.
That being said, Ghost in the Shell does look to kick off the sci-fi blockbuster genre in 2017. It opens on March 31.