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Warning: possible spoilers ahead for Ghost in the Shell. Don't read any further if you want to stay in the dark leading up to the film's release!
We have seen plenty of movies inspired by American comic books, but few that take direct inspiration from Japanese manga. That's where Ghost in the Shell comes in. Rupert Sanders' live-action depiction of the classic Japanese property is slated to hit theaters later this month, and the Scarlett Johansson fronted film already looks like a badass action-adventure that will satisfy die-hard fans and newcomers alike.
While the anticipation for Ghost in the Shell has become agonizing, a lucky segment of the moviegoing populace was recently invited to check out 15 minutes of IMAX footage from the upcoming sci-fi epic. We were in attendance for one of these screenings, and we were blown away by what we saw. You're probably dying to know what we saw, so let's dive in and discuss the iconic "shelling" sequence.
The Shelling Sequence
The initial sequence shown to IMAX audiences is one of the most iconic images and concepts from the entire Ghost in the Shell universe: the "shelling" sequence. The scene involves The Major having her brain removed from her dying body and placed into a robotic "shell" that effectively turns her into a weapon. It is a beautifully constructed sequence (complete with a seriously impressive synthwave soundtrack), and it mainly shows the birth of our hero. We see her brain (encased in a metal frame) implanted into a skeleton, and then layer by layer a functioning body is built around her. Eventually, The Major wakes up in shock over what has happened, and we watch her slowly but steadily come to terms with who (what) she now is.
One of the first things that we noticed going into the shelling sequence is the fact that it is not a direct adaptation of the sequence from the original Ghost in the Shell anime. The cast and crew have taken certain visual cues, but the sequence in which The Major receives her robotic body is not a shot for shot recreation from the source material. It's close to what we generally expect it to look like, but it also definitely stands on its own.
That is something that becomes echoed numerous times throughout the Ghost in the Shell footage shown to IMAX audiences. The film seems like a thematic adaptation of what fans have come to know and love about this material, and specific shots are indeed included in the overall product, but the film is trying to carve out a niche for itself and work within the live-action format. Movies like Captain America: Civil War have proven that this school of thought works, so we think it might be the right course of action for Ghost in the Shell as well.
Of course, the shelling sequence wasn't the only footage that IMAX audiences got to see from Ghost in the Shell. Check out the next page for an in-depth discussion of one of the film's badass action scenes!
The second sequence shown to audiences in the IMAX prescreening takes place one year after the shelling sequence. It opens on a single take shot (which is absolutely gorgeous, by the way) that sweeps through the city and finds The Major standing on a rooftop conducting surveillance on a meeting taking place in the building below.
Eventually, the meeting is attacked by a group of unidentified assailants, and The Major leaps into action -- literally. Dropping her cloak, she jumps off of the building (a shot ripped straight from the anime) and switches over to stealth mode. Taking out several attackers from outside the window of the meeting, she then leaps through the glass and proceeds to take down all of the bad guys with speed and precision. She lingers for a second over the last robot she kills (apparently seeing a parallel between herself and the machines she has gunned down) and storms out when her reinforcements enter the room to help her.
A few things pop out during this sequence that set Ghost in the Shell apart from the competition -- the first of which is the skill of the cinematography. These scenes are beautifully shot, and the action is crisp and clear. There is an abundance of slow-motion camerawork, which may prove somewhat divisive among members of the audience, but I found it very effective in conveying the speed and skill of our main character. There's minimal shaky cam work here, and the action sequences (at least in what footage the IMAX audiences were shown) keep the shots wide with few cuts.
Beyond the camerawork in the film, Ghost in the Shell's blend of CGI and practical effects is very notable and commendable. There are a number of digital effects used in this hostage rescue sequence, but they are embedded quite seamlessly into a sea of practical sets and characters. The whole thing feels very tangible and doesn't fall into traps that slipped up the Star Wars prequels.
All in all, this hostage rescue sequence is an incredibly tense action scene that actually sells Ghost in the Shell as a live-action anime. While many adapted sequences (particularly in the comic book genre) often fail to capture the overall aesthetic and style of their source material, this film seems to have genuinely endeavored to make itself look like a live-action Japanese cartoon. It is an enthralling prospect, and it made me (someone who is not very into manga or anime) interested in getting more involved in this particular style art and storytelling.
Ghost in the Shell will hit theaters on March 31. For now, make sure to check out a badass trailer for the upcoming sci-fi action film on the next page!