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‘Ghost in the Shell’ Is a Masterclass in How Not to Make an Adaptation — Watch

A new video essay explains where the live action version went wrong, with no mention of whitewashing.

Scarlett Johansson plays Major in Ghost in the Shell from Paramount Pictures and DreamWorks Pictures.

“Ghost in the Shell”

Paramount Pictures

A lot has been written about 2017’s live action “Ghost in the Shell” remake. The popular manga series by Masamune Shirow had already seen several successful anime adaptations when Scarlett Johansson stepped into what became one of her most controversial roles to date. Fans of the original and advocates for racial diversity alike were disappointed that a Japanese character had been cast with a white actress, and “Ghost in the Shell” became the latest glaring example in a long line of Hollywood “whitewashing.”

But that wasn’t the only thing Dreamworks got wrong in their version. A compelling new video essay by The Nerdwriter argues that the latest “Ghost in the Shell” stole images from the anime, but missed the point of the story by dulling their vibrancy and diminishing their power.

A side by side comparison of one shot reveals how the light on the bed draws the viewer’s eye to the least interesting thing in the frame, whereas the anime version casts the light from outside, creating a beautiful backlit figure as well as a satisfying frame within the frame. The narrator also mourns the loss of beautiful city signage in exchange for a drab building, and points out how even a simple costuming choice like a beige shirt over a red one can suck the life out of a scene.

Most compelling of all is the way he argues that the smallest details, like a well-timed smirk or a minor character’s back story, can pull the whole story into focus. By skimping on these simple world-building details, “Ghost in the Shell” ended up missing the entire plot.

Check it out:

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