I was beginning to wonder. With the March 2017 date fast catching up, all we’d seen had been a couple of teaser clips, and I was bracing myself for an announcement that the release had been pushed back. But here we are, with the first official trailer for the film. I must confess, at this point I am largely unable to comment on how this relates to the other versions of the story, in manga and anime, since it has been a very long time [nearer 20 years than 15] since I read and saw those, and a lot of the universe has taken place since then. I will be catching up over the next few months, and you can expect a blast of retro-GitS coverage here in the second half of March.
But, on its own terms, this looks every bit as visually stunning as you’d expect from the director of Snow White and the Huntsman, a film which, if certainly flawed, was one of the best-looking movies of the past few years. I think those aspects are probably going to hit it out of the park. But in terms of story-line, it does feel more than somewhat generic, more like a female version of Robocop than anything else. We’ve all seen the “Who am I, really?” thing before, to the extent that it’s bordering on cliché. The previous versions have been renowned for being deep, though that can often be a problematic direction for a feature film to take. For instance, I caught a bit of The Matrix Reloaded the other day, in particular the scene with the Architect burbling nonsense like, “Your life is the sum of a remainder of an unbalanced equation inherent to the programming of the matrix.” Just give us more of ScarJo in slow-mo, please.
Speaking of which… The casting of Ms. Johansson. I’m just going to copy/paste an online comment, “I’m so sick of Hollywood casting white women in roles that were meant for cyborgs. #OscarsSoOrganic.” Yes, this is sarcasm, in case it’s not 110% clear. But I’m looking forward to seeing both Pilou Asbæk and Takeshi Kitano; the former has been a house choice from his time in Danish political series Borgen, and the latter is an icon of Japanese yakuza films for more than two decades. They’re going to bring it, I’m fairly certain. There’s still time for this to go in either direction – I seem to recall Aeon Flux having a fairly kick-ass opening trailer – and I’m sure the GitS purists will find plenty to complain about. But as someone whose expectations are currently unaffected by previous versions, this looks almost certain to be a trip to the cinema.
There’s a lot riding on it. While Hollywood has had enormous success in mining North American comics for movies, going outside has yet to lead to major international success. Between Ghost and Valerian, 2017 will be a major test of their commercial viability, and beyond that, the $200 million (!) production of Battle Angel is already heading towards a July 2018 release. Success will inevitably lead to more; failure will not only hurt the future prospects of other manga adaptations, it could undo a lot of the action heroine positive buzz provided by the success of The Hunger Games.