Still from “Ghost in the Shell” [Youtube]
No matter how you feel about Ruper Sanders’ live action remake of Ghost in the Shell, it has at least one avid fan: the series’ original director Mamoru Oshii. The remake has been met with criticism, with many fans claiming that casting Scarlett Johansson as lead Motoko Kusanagi is further evidence of Hollywood white-washing. By taking the series out of its original environment, critics say the new movie remake is stripping the movie of valuable cultural depth.
Amidst all this negativity, Mamoru Oshii has risen to defend the live action movie. Oshii has gone as far as to state that the movie “will definitely be the most gorgeous work in the series, ever” (translated from Animeanime). He isn’t quite as troubled by Johansson’s casting, either. According to Screen Rant, Oshii even asks “What issue could there possibly be with casting her?” Motoko, Oshii reminds everyone, is nothing but a body — a shell — and neither her body nor her name are relevant to who she is: “The name ‘Motoko Kusanagi’ and her current body are not her original name and body, so there is no basis for saying that an Asian actress must portray her.”
Oshii further points out that movies often require some suspension of disbelief for the sake of “cinematic conventions. If that’s not allowed, then Darth Vader probably shouldn’t speak English, either.” Oshii points to John Wayne’s portrayal of Genghis Khan, and Omar Sharif’s role as Doctor Zhivago.
Oshii is behind the casting 100 per cent: “I believe having Scarlett play Motoko was the best possible casting for this movie. I can only sense a political motive from the people opposing it, and I believe artistic expression must be free from politics.”
Responses have been split, with some fans siding with Oshii’s logic and others dismissing his opinion or pointing out that white-washing is a bigger issue rather than this one isolated case. Whether the movie “shot itself in the foot,” as some fans claim, remains to be seen. You can judge it for yourself when it comes out on March 31.