The new trailer for Snow White and the Huntsman director Rupert Sanders’ live action film adaptation of the popular Japanese manga series offers a more detailed look at the surreal imagery and a veiled glimpse at Michael Pitt as Kuze. Ghost in the Shell is set in a fictional Japanese city in a dystopian future where it is entirely common for people to get their biological organs replaced with computerised parts. Most people’s brains are fitted with ‘cybernetic’ parts, allowing them to be downloaded and ‘backed up’ on a hard drive much like an iPhone. The main character, Major Motoko Kusanagi (played by Scarlett Johansson), having had a fatal accident befall her has a child, was given a fully prosthetic body to house her ‘cyberbrain’, enabling her to continue living as a ‘cyborg’. In layman’s terms – she’s a robot with a half human, half computerised brain. The danger with her life saving procedure is that it has left her brain vulnerable to hackers who may bend her whims and use her superhuman strengths to their own benefit.
In previous trailers, the appearance of Pitt’s character has been kept very brief, hidden in silhouette with only his croaky voice getting a prominent and ominous feature, strongly resembling Heath Ledger and Jared Leto’s Jokers. This is apt, as his character Kuze is also referred to as ‘The Laughing Man’. You may know Michael Pitt from the likes of HBO’s Boardwalk Empire or Michael Haneke’s Funny Games (2007). From playing blatant psychopaths to gentle scientists, his talents displayed in his immense and varied body of work make him one of the industry’s most underrated actors. He also seems to have a talent for attaching himself to high quality projects, which should vouch even further for this film. Perhaps his involvement with this high-profile production will thrust him into popular culture and there will be much more of him to be seen.
I’m not expecting an Academy Award worthy screenplay or film, but I am expecting a visual spectacle and massive scale entertainment, a cut above most blockbusters in the multi-million dollar budget bracket. The new trailer also reveals more shots of the overpopulated, technologically advanced ‘New Port City’ – as it is known – which are brilliantly realised, setting up a nightmarish world reminiscent of the work of Chris Cunningham and the likes of Blade Runner (1982) and The Fifth Element (1997). It is this finely detailed world which sets Sanders up as somewhat of a visual auteur and makes Ghost in the Shell something to look forward to.
Johansson has had an oddly varied career, spanning from highly experimental independent arthouse films to cashed up comic book blockbusters. Coincidentally, this is the third time she had played some form of synthetic human – appearing in Lucy (2014) and the critically acclaimed Under the Skin (2013) – and her second visit to Japan since Lost in Translation (2003), giving this film an eerie sense of familiarity. The cast is completed by Juliette Binoche and Michael Wincott. Ghost in the Shell is set to be released worldwide on March 31st. You can watch the trailer below.
Michael Pitt in Ghost in the Shell