I COULD TELL YOU WHY GHOST IN THE SHELL ISN’T DOING SO WELL, AND ITS NOT JUST WHITE WASHING

1. THE NUDE SUIT MAKES WOMEN GO ‘NO THANKS’

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It used to be common wisdom that marketing to women was financial suicide, and that if you had two women passing the Betchdel then the testes of all the men in the audience would shrivel and die as they wept in the corner, disgusted and horrified by the revelation that women might be people.

But who knew? Apparently men (well the majority, anyway) aren’t crazed mysogynists,  and appealing to the other 50% of the population is profitable. Look at the explosive success of both Frozen and Beauty and The Beast. It should have been obvious that if you’ve got a female lead film with a popular actress, then female audiences should be part of your target demographic. But they alienated them with that stupid naked, fetishistic suit which made no sense whatsoever.

The original Ghost In The Shell movies is a classic, but that naked suit was ridiculous then and the one thing that SHOULD have been thrown to the wayside.

2. IT FORGOT TO TELL A COMPELLING STORY

I’ve read a lot of reviews for this film.While there are plenty of fans upset by the arse f@cking alterisations this classic recieved, and plenty of others upset by the white washing, there are lots of new viewers who care about neither issue that were just bored.

If you a film’s got an inheritely crowd pleasing idea like sexy vampires or superheroes pummeling each other, then it can get away with lackluster storytelling with the right marketing. GITS didn’t have that luxury, so bottom line is that  it needed to be a good movie to make an impression, and this just didn’t cut it.

3. IT KICKED FANS OF THE ORIGINAL IN THE FACE

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This was a big problem. It transformed a thoughtful, philosophical sci fi film which asked a lot of deep questions about identity, what makes a person ‘them’, or even ‘male’ or ‘female’ if the physical form is easily discarded- into a generic revenge flick against a Big Mean corporation. It bears more in common with Neuromancer and its heroine Molly Millions than it did to GITS and the goddamned Major.

The only things thing they did to make it connect to the franchise is to include a few cyberpunk elements, recreate a few scenes devoid of the meaning or context of the original, and kept the stupid naked suit. It bore so little resemblence to the spirit of the original, that there was no reason to even make it part of the franchise in the first place.

4. IT MARKED A CYBERPUNK FILM IN 2016

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This would have done well during Disney’s Renaissance, but the audience has moved on

Yeah, timeliness and marketing are everything. Look at Princess and The Frog for instance. Although it had a good story (albeit not an excellent one), it didn’t do as well because it was released at a time when computer animation was in and handrawn animation was being relegated to the small screen. Sure, it cashed in on nostalgia for older viewers, but a nostalgic Disney film isn’t going to appeal to the kids.

This film makes the same error; it looks and feels like Blade Runner. But cyberpunk is a very 90s genre, when we still had no clue what cyberspace was or what the internet were going to turn out like. Giving a film an aesthetic that had its heydey decades ago while bringing nothing new to the table is not a good marketing move.

5. DID YOU NOT SEE THE #OSCARSSOWHITE?

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Look, whitewashing has been an extremely contentious issue recently. While most audiences genuinely don’t care that much about whitewashing, the fact is that it is a big hot button issue. So of course, when media outlets that would usually provide free publicity ask questions, they’re all going to centre around that issue . As a result, the only thing people were hearing about the film was its white washing, and that certainly isn’t endearing.

Writers, if you REALLY believed that a non white actress doesn’t hold ‘mass market appeal’, then you could have avoided all this by just creating your own robot film– or derived it from a Western franchise like The Bionic Woman or Terminator.If you did that you could even pretend to be progressive without putting in any work. You’d already get points for having a female action lead.

All you’d need to do from there is include a token Asian and have someone like your now Not!Batou  make a very ambiguous statement about his sexuality and voila! You’re now progressive! (actually, he’s tool masculine, that tends to upset people because there has never been a manly gay man ever. Make that Not!Togusa)

But speaking of existing franchises, we also have this problem.

6. PEOPLE ARE GETTING EXHAUSTED WITH ENDLESS SEQUELS AND REBOOTS

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Creativity, creativity, why have you forsaken thee

Disney are getting away with it (for now) because their reboots are a visually interesting and manage to at least be passable. But overall, the audience is getting tired of reboots. So releasing a film that is (a) mediocre in terms of storytelling (b) unfaithful to the spirit of the source material (c) manages to repel women in spite of being female lead and (d) has a controversy that dominates the talk of the film… you’ve got a box office bomb on your hands.

And that, my friends, is why GITS tanked.

FIRST LOOK: Ghost In The Shell Full Trailer

 

Another trailer and we’ve got a clearer idea of what the film is going to try and do. Rather than going for say, The Laughing Man storyline from the anime, or looking into the original manga for some good storylines, it seems like a straight up remake of the amazing original film.  That could be a problem- because its setting itself against an impossibly high bar. The film was groundbraking in its use of animation, and it was a film that was subtley harrowing, a film you felt rather than saw. I think that this version is going to be very Hollywood and lose its depth.

First off, the Americanism really, really shows. We’ve got a clearly Japanese setting, full of Japanese cyberpunk visuals (more reminiscent of Western works like Bladerunner or Neuromancer than anything from Japan), and yet we have a white woman running around speaking in an American accent, a bunch of white and black people with Japanese names blasting things in the most Hollywood style possible. The Japanese visuals they do show- the Geisha and the Carp- seem pulled out of Japanese culture rather haphazardly with little thought to their meaning or context aside from ‘ooh, this looks cool and Asian’. While the original Anime subtly emanated Japanese culture through its world (or Hong Kong in the case of the original movie), this feels more like a Tourist Shop vision of Japan. Beautiful, but ultimately lacking meaning behind the Geishas and kimonos.

Second, it looks like we’re getting a more emotional- and very human, very feminine-Major. Part of the conflict of Ghost In The Shell was that with all that remained of her human biology being a few brain cells, was she even still human or had she become more machine. A very cold, detached Major was more profound because it really made her question of whether her humanity was lost in all the wires, all the shells, all the more real. As for gender, Major Kusanagi, a female in the highly male dominated Japanese police force, was the most powerful and the most traditionally masculine one there; it asked questions like ‘was Major always a woman, or did she have the brain of a man?’ ‘Without hormones or a male and female body, which you could chose at whim, what did gender even mean anymore?’

A more emotional, vulnerable Major is perhaps more human and easier to emphasise with and more accessible to a mainstream audience, but it loses so much of the point and the conflict of The Major’s character.

All in all, it is still just a trailer and I will reserve judgement on the film, but so far it looks like it will be a very cool Hollywood film that copies the look of the original, but doesn’t quite capture what made it more than just another sci fi action.

 

Ghost In The Shell- Should We Still Support It In Spite Of It’s Race Controversy

 

Ghost in The Shell- one of the most enduring franchises in Anime history, spawning the superb movie (which everyone should watch) and the great anime series (and its even bettwe sequel 2nd GIG). Now finally, a new generation will have a chance to become aquainted with an excellent franchise.

Well, it’s hard to tell so far but it does seem to have the cool, melancholy tone of the original film (although no CGI could match up to its beauty of course), and it definately has a Japanese cyberpunk thing going on. Motoko displays far more emotion than any of her other counterparts- including the hard to read film version and the seasoned, in control leader of the anime- but that not be a bad thing. Although I love the Major, a criticism is that she is a bit too perfect and can seem flat because she never really goes through any character arcs (for the record I love the Major). Maybe a Major with more of an emotional arc will make her more compelling as a lead.

I’m not sure how I feel about its white washing. On the one hand, it is great that we’re getting another female lead action franchise and that Ghost In The Shell- an absolutely amazing series- is being brought to a new generation. This could help the franchise assert itself in popular culture once more AND it will help increase the sales of the original series and maybe even increase interest in Asian media. But now anime (with a few exceptions like Madoka and Stein’s Gate) seems to have devolved into Harem wish fulfillment fantasy,Moe, ginormaboobs and yaoi bait, I’m not sure that’s entirely a good thing. But I digress.

However, looking at the cast it’s still pretty white. I understand the argument that Hollywood needs a big name it feels safe with to headline the movie and that’s why it chose Johansson. I don’t agree, but understand. But this shouldn’t mean that the supporting cast shouldn’t be predominatly Asian- yet Batou and almost all of the support are white. The only character who is currently named that is played by an Asian actor is Daisuke, the leader who is never really part of the action. He could risk falling into the role of promoted to obscurity (when they have a POC who’s really high up, but is so high up that they have little characterization and are not involved with any of the important action.) Or being the calm, magical Asian.

This is frustrating because even after the last Oscar fiasco, and with so few roles for Asians to prove themselves in, we have a film set in Japan which is yet again devoid of any Asians. There’s an arguement for Scarlett Johansson as the lead (being the sole female lead of one of the biggest action franchises), but not on this scale. Besides, when I see an Asian film with a bunch of white people, it really does kind of give me a bit of a weeaboo feel.

One thing that should be noted though, is that a lot of people in Japan don’t actually care that much about it being played by a white person. They seem just as bemused about the idea of a Chinese American (Lucy Liu) playing a Japanese character and appear to roll their eyes at how Hollywood it looks. This is probably to do with the fact that they grow up in Japan with their own thriving tv shows and media featuring Japanese people, so of course representation and the problem of Japanese actors being denied work is alien to them.

All in all, it’s hard to tell whether it’ll be good or bad, but I’ll see it to support the franchise, and to prove again that a female lead action franchise is not a risk at all (but bad writing a la Catwoman is). And maybe if this becomes a hit, we’ll get more like it. In the mean time, I’d like to leave us with the greatest animated sequence ever put to film, so we can remember why this franchise is so beloved:

However, I’m not Asian so it’s not my thoughts which count. If anyone else has anything to say about this please feel free to post in the comments.

FILM REVIEW: ZOOTOPIA

Zootopia is the perfect animated film; funny, smart, gorgeous, full of likable characters and containing a clever message about prejudice and stereotyping that makes it a film for children and adults alike. The story begins with Judy Hopps, possibly a contender for world’s most adorable bunny (and new queen of the furries, but that’s something I try not to think about). She is determined to overcome the stereotype of ‘dumb bunny’ and become the first rabbit officer in Zootopia, a place where any animal can be anything they want to be. Or so she was brought up to believe. Continue reading FILM REVIEW: ZOOTOPIA