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.

9 THINGS I’D LIKE TO SEE FROM MULAN, THE LIVE ACTION REMAKE

As much as I love Disney, I have mixed feelings when it comes to the Live Action remakes. On the one hand,  The Jungle Book really benefitted from an update, while on the other, I thought Beauty And The Beast was too perfect to be updated, and the live action proved me right.

However, when I heard of Mulan’s live action update, I felt like it made perfect sense. It’s based on a story that is very maleable and rich for creating new and astonishing interpretations. Plus, while the origin has its charm, it’s far from a perfect movie and there are some updates that this film would really benefit. What updates you ask? Well, here are my top 7 things I would like to see from the Disney Live Action.

1) A DISNEY VILLAIN WORTH FIGHTING… UM, AGAINST

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Oh Shan Yu, what high hopes we had of thee. He SHOULD have been one of the greatest Disney Villains ever created, but he was so utterly forgettable. While Lady Tremaine had to make to do with turning a teenage girl into a domestic servant, and Shir Khan was defeated by a ten year old, this villain threatened all of China and I barely remember anything about him. He’s a general who’s slaughtered children, and yet the most memorable thing about him was his eyes. This needs to be fixed in the live action.

It’s time to give us the kind of Disney villain we crave, the kind we still haven’t had since Hades. Make him big, powerful, menacing, larger than life… a man who inspires fear the minute he enters the room. A man who’s built up even before he appears on screen. Disney, give the swishy villains a break and make Shan Yu a dark, macho badass: a warlord who’s always calm and calculating, never needing to raise his voice, even as he sharpens his sword while dropping implied threats to his minions if they should fail him.

2) REAL MARTIAL ARTS AND ADVENTURE

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This is the most perfect choice of films to make a live action. Unlike with BATB, the original was far from perfect and Disney has not told the definitive version. There’s plenty of scope for change and for the writers/ directors to bring something new to the table.

This film lends itself perfectly to a good old fashioned adventure. I would love to see Mulan do some real martial arts and engage in some blood pumping stunts. I mean, Mushuu killed the villain in the original while Mulan mainly flails around wildly. I want to see a big epic climax.

3) DON’T CAVE INTO THE PRESSURE TO MAKE IT INTO A MUSICAL FOR NO REASON

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Love the songs, but this film is no The Little Mermaid. Songs aren’t necessary to make this film work and could serve to destroy the tension.

As much as I enjoyed the songs, Mulan is a film that really doesn’t call for it. It is better suited as an action adventure.

Remember when back in the 90s, a live action version of 101 dalmations was made and there was a controversy because the dalmations didn’t talk? Well, in hindsight, it was a good choice. Talking dogs would have been more jarring because it didn’t have the animation to soften the surrealness of it all, and it gave us all we wanted from the original: cute puppies and a GLORIOUS performance from Cruella DeVille.

In this case we don’t really need them. It’s an epic martial arts, swashbuckling, sword fighting adventure filled with girl power! It has a more serious conflict, and the musical element could diminish that.

4) IF MUSHU DOESN’T WORK, DON’T FORCE HIM

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Forget Mushuu, I always wanted to see THIS dragon in the film.

Comic relief characters like Mushuu are often wildcards. Sometimes they work really, really well (Aladdin, Despicable Me), but sometimes they can turn into a complete nightmare (The Magic Sword, The Hunchback of Notre Dame). I enjoyed Muushu’s performance… most of the time. But he did jarr with the film’s tone and I doubt him translating well to a live action with a slightly less campy tone.

I can see him looking good, but none of the designs which would make him awesome would make him look funny. The last thing I want is another CGI monstrosity on our hands ala Beauty and The Beast. And I don’t want him completely breaking the tension or destroying the Chinese atmosphere.

Disney, if Li Shang is not essential, than neither is Mushu.

5) GIVE US AN ALL SOUTH EAST ASIAN CAST

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Gotta give them credit, Disney does seem to be sorting themselves out on this front.

To be fair, I think Disney has enough sense to do this with at LEAST the leading heroine and most of the cast. I mean, it really did everything right with Moana and Lilo and Stitch, and took a risk and cast an unknown Indian kid in The Jungle Book remake. Plus, criticise it all you will for its treatment of Tiana, Disney  sadly is more inclusive than Pixar or Dreamworks, and has made some of the most genuine efforts to self reflect on what it can do better. With their dependence on marketing Mulan as their one and only Asian Princess, I doubt they would cast a white person to play her.

But yeah, while I’ll doubt it’ll do an all Chinese cast, an all Asian cast would be terrific.

6) A STRONGER PERSONALITY FOR MULAN

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Yeah, Mulan was brave and all, but in terms of personality, she is the typical goofball missfit who sings to their own tune and saves the day. She is Flick, Hercules, Quasimodo in that respect and not too interesting in and of herself.

Even if she starts out unsure of herself (although the heroine from the Chinese poem was pretty damn confident), I wasnt to see some real steel in her performance. I want a complete ferocious badass, a true action hero. I’d also totally want her to full on defeat the badguy without Mushuu’s help, making her the second Disney Princess who full on killed their opponent! The first, of course, being our beloved Tiana.

7) A MAN WORTH FIGHTING FOR

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Pictured here the very beautiful Japanese actor, Jin Akanishi

I get Li Shang won’t be in the movie, and that’s fine as not all stories need a romance. But I think it would be good to include a handsome, macho male lead. Firstly, we all need more handsome Asian guys on our screen.

But more importantly, studies into sexual attractiveness and race have shown that South East Asian men are deemed the least desirable in part due to unfair perceptions that they are less manly than other races. You know, those delicate flowers whose various cultures spawned such feeble warriors such as the Gurkas, Samurai, and the Shaolin monks.

Having a strong, masculine and desirable Asian male lead shown to a wide audience won’t solve the problem, but it would help.

8) A MORE MEANINFUL INCLUSION OF CHINESE CULTURE

Disney have improved a lot since the Renaissance when it comes to writing race. They incorporated Polynesian culture pretty well into Lilo and Stitch and Moana. Hell, even the European films had a bit more of an identity than just ‘generic fairytale land’, with Brave feeling distinctly Scottish, and BATB at least incorportating more of the 1700s French aesthetic into their live action.

I’m hoping they will include the Chinese culture into Mulan in a more meaningful way, because while the original was good it felt like a Western film with pretty watercolor aesthetics. Maybe they could bring more Buddhist philosophy and martial arts teachings into it, as well as perhaps taking the ancestral spirits a little more seriously.

9) ANOTHER GAY DISNEY CHARACTER

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After the whole mess of an April’s fools joke from Pink News surrounding a Gay Simba, it proves that people are still. But LaFou did not stop Beauty and The Beast’s box office success.

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But the problem with LaFou is that he is a walking stereotype and camp joke. What message does it say to gay kids… hey kids, you’ll never be the hero, but you get to be the obsequious mincing side kick who servilely drools over the big manly straight man! Progress!

Mulan is a perfect film to include a proper gay character when you think about it. Mulan already subverts expectations of gender and masculinity by ending with our heroes in drag; I’ll Make A Man Out Of You is a camp classic; there’s some theories that Li Shang was having a big gay crisis thanks to Mulan’s cross dressing and most importantly, people have already seen a gay interpretation of the character of Mulan. The stage is set. And there’s so many possibilities.

If they were uncomfortable with having a gay romance, they could easily do a Persona 4 style ass pull and have a gay male soldier find himself attracted to Mulan, and after he learns the truth he realises that it’s definately only men he’s attracted to. There could be a sad and poignant talk under a cherry blossom tree in spring about how they both knew they were different, but perhaps in different ways and come on! This writes itself!

Representation matters, and after all the work gay staff, musicians and writers have put into making their films the classics they are, I think its time to show that gay men and women are people worth including in their works!

That’s what I want to see from a live action Mulan, and I’m interested to hear your thoughts

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.