Pierce Conran, Contributor.
Ten days or so after having first seen it, I can’t say that the new Ghost in the Shell has exhibited much staying power. Sanders was perhaps too faithful to the original, albeit more formally than spiritually, resulting in a ravishing update that was all shell and no ghost.
Given the film’s poor start on the charts, many critics have come out once more to deem the film an unnecessary remake and a blatant case of whitewashing. I’m loath to insert myself into those discussions but I personally don’t see a major problem with remakes and I’m don’t really buy into the whitewashing controversy on this one.
Yes, many remakes are cash grabs, but since stories were first shared through spoken word thousands of years ago, storytellers have always sought to tap pre-existing content. It’s the nature of the business, from Disney franchises all the way down to arthouse fare all around the globe. I would prefer if more big-budget remakes were better, but I don’t begrudge studios the right to purchase and adapt content, even something like Ghost in the Shell, which is an obvious candidate for a remake, despite what some may say.
The whitewashing argument is trickier, but given that this a remake of a Japanese title by an American studio for an international market and that the location of the story in both is New Liberty City, a deliberately global sounding metropolis that was based more on Hong Kong than Tokyo, I don’t see why the studio is any way obliged to cast someone of any particular ethnicity. Yes, it’s troubling that the lead of a Hollywood blockbuster is almost always white, but that’s an industry problem, and not one related to cultural appropriation.
Furthermore, the idea that someone ‘Asian’ should have been cast can also be problematic. While I would love to have seen a global Ghost in the Shell with someone like Bae Doona in the lead, that would have quelled whitewashing arguments in the west, but some Japanese fans may not have been wild about seeing someone Korean taking on an originally Japanese role.