Yo What’s up guys, it’s time for some nerdery (made up word, don’t care)
So in 2001 sometime I was recommended by a friend to watch a little animated film called Ghost in the Shell. Now I’ll admit I have never been huge into anime (though I am trying at the moment in the wake of research for this post) but anime was on the rise in western culture and I figured I’d give it a go, needless to say I don’t remember the experience, except that I do remember the movie being amazing, though that seems to be the Nostalgia Filter at work (more on that in a bit).
So last week I watched the new, remade, live-action version of Ghost In The Shell with Scarlett Johansson and lots of cool CGI, I loved it, like really, really enjoyed it, but I did remember a lot of backlash at the choice of casting and various other things to do with the production, namely the “whitewashing” scandal. So in the interest of fairness I rewatched the 1995 version last night to be sure that what I was seeing, and hearing was either founded in truth, or pushed violently through the Nostalgia Filter with a heavy dose of politics on the side.
Let me be clear, I am not saying there is no whitewashing in Hollywood, I’m not saying that either film is perfect in any way, I am merely saying that arguments can be made that a lot of the backlash might be hate for the sake of hate (something I will definitely be tackling in a future post).
So, first of all, no politics, just plain movie love: I thought the noticeable deviation from the core story was actually quite a wonderful idea in the 2017 version, instead of a standard conspiracy we get a Cyborg/Human hybrid trying to understand ghosts in her programming and remembering who she was before they stuck her in a new body. I loved the whole idea of the governments best weapon, controlled by their best programming and smartest minds, breaking free of those controls with gentle pushes toward the truth. I think that version of Major really humanised the character in a way that made me concentrate less on her gender or race and more on the very identifiable story of having control over your own life, what it means to be human and the corrupting power of business success. That said…I found the 1995 villain to be far more interesting, far more believable within the physics of the film’s established world and far less whiny, tragic and “smart man saves strong woman” that felt like a forced attempt at a feminist metaphor. In the original the Major was smart, fast, strong and possessed a willpower that would make the Green Lantern re-evaluate his life choices. See in the original the villain never directly harms anyone because he is a pure,autonomous A.I. who can accomplish everything he wants without physical constraints. Hell a physical body is used to trap him, leading to a revelation whereby he explains that he does not need a physical form to accomplish his goals, that he has evolved a trancended the human condition, his goal in one of unity against greed and oppression. In the 2017 film he is a former, failed test subject for Section 9, the department (in both movies) that Major works for and is owned by. He is angsty, whiny, and a full fledged terrorist that while fighting a shady organisation manages to make himself one of the least sympathetic characters in the entire film! Hell I even liked the main ‘big business’ style villain more than this C3PO on steroids. Furthermore the revelation that Major and Kuze (the Emobot) used to be Asian before being put into their American, robot forms feels like a last minute change/cop out in response to the Whitewashing scandal, I mean stick to your guns guys, if Scarlett Johansson is your choice for Major then embrace that shit and just make the best film you can, I understand the drama of it but you made your choices and politics is not your concern, I love Ms Johansson as the lead, I found her action scenes very convincing and moreso her struggle to understand the truth of her existence, an amazing choice and one that I feel should have shut up the haters very easily. I also much preferred Pilou Asbaek (of GoT fame) as the tough, slightly closed minded but all round charming Batou, he was far more identifiable as a gruff but caring tough guy than the representation in the 1995 original, though I don’t fully understand why we needed to find out about his eye damage as a side plot when the original had him with his ocular implants from the start (though they always just seemed to be cool sunglasses). Regardless my main point is I loved both movies for different reasons but I disliked both in some places too, which brings me to:
The Nostalgia FIlter
This little psychological phenomenon has never been more busy than it is now, it’s the thing our brains and in turn our big mouths use to justify why we hate a film/tv show/book/video game so much that we feel we have the right to hate on that thing so venomously and publicly that we should all (me included) be ashamed. Need an example? Great cos you were gonna get one anyway: I really don’t like Spiderman 3, and before realising some hard truths about myself I REALLY disliked Spiderman 3, venomously, hatefully, and I grew ashamed.
See I love Venom, the greatest Spiderman villain ever made, I believe he is to Spidey what the Joker is to Batman, the perfect opposite in every regard. However in the film he was used as little more than an annoying thug with a cool suit, his capabilities, vast intelligence and even his vague respect for the Spider dude are never fully explored because he is shoe-horned in at the last moment, any Venom fan will tell you, you do one movie for Spidey in the black suit, you save the emergence and origin of the Eddie Brock Venom for the NEXT FUCKING MOVIE (see I’m still not totally over it). So I hate Sam Raimi, and Sony, And Topher Grace, And Tobey Maguire and basically anyone who allowed such a disrespect of my childhood Venom love. But here’s the thing…Hate burns you more than your target, it is blind and stupid and solves nothing. See I later found out that Raimi didn’t want to do Venom at all as he doesn’t like the character, but Sony in their wisdom made him do it, thus a subpar joke of the character was given life. Raimi wanted to make his move, Sony wanted money, and no one else was to blame. I only really understood when Suicide Squad was all over the place being chased by hate and anger. We remember the great Heath Ledger as Joker, but Jared Leto can fuck off. Really? Cos I remember everyone going fucking berserk when Heath Ledger was cast, saying that he was too pretty and couldn’t possibly be trusted with our dear Clown Prince of Crime, yet when Leto gives it a go he’s an asshole?! Look I didn’t like his portrayal either but I barely saw the dude long enough to warm to him, again he was supposed to be the main villain but Warner Bros. told director David Ayer to change the plot to suit a larger scale movie, so who’s fault is it? Leto’s? Ayer’s? NO! It’s yours! you all kicked and screamed and Warner Bros. panicked and changed it all.
To those Ghost in The Shell purists: Have you seen the remake? or have you judged based on a collection of images and your need to hate everything.? You realise sale of the original on DVD/Blu-Ray has shot up because everyone is curious as to what this remake came from, new audiences are watching the beloved original because they remade it, isn’t that fantastic? But don’t sit there and tell me it’s a perfect movie, that it stands the test of time. It does a good job, sure, but it’s flawed, just like ALL good sci-fi movies are…ALL
Watch the damn movies before you pass judgement and look beyond petty ideals about the movies you watch. Then we can all start having nice things.
P.S. What is America’s obsession with removing nipples?