The American film production company DreamWorks has revealed that it has licensed the rights to adapt Masamune Shirow's Ghost in the Shell cyber-police manga into a 3D live-action film. The story of an elite paramilitary unit in future Japan has already been adapted into three animated films and two television anime series. DreamWorks has released the second animated Ghost in the Shell film, Innocence, in North America. DreamWorks also released Millennium Actress and produced Transformers, another live-action science-fiction film with Japanese roots.
Variety reports that Universal and Sony also negotiated for the rights, which the Production I.G anime studio was pitching for the manga's original publisher Kodansha. What turned the dealmaking in DreamWorks' favor was co-founder Steven Spielberg's enthusiasm for the project. The entertainment trade newspaper quotes the acclaimed director and producer: "Ghost in the Shell is one of my favorite stories. It's a genre that has arrived, and we enthusiastically welcome it to DreamWorks."
Avi Arad (formerly of Marvel Studios as well as of the Spider-Man and X-Men movie franchises), Arad's son Ari, and Seaside Entertainment's Steven Paul brought the project to DreamWorks and will produce. Jamie Moss (Street Kings, Last Man Home) has been assigned to script the project.
Most of the time I just shake my head and shrug (in my mind) when I read about American companies vying to create live-action movies out of anime or manga. Part of that is because most of the time those kind of projects never come to fruition -- and the ones that do are titles that I don't really care about one way or the other. But, if the upcoming Speed Racer and Dragonball movies end up being huge financial successes, all those other live-action anime projects -- from Monster, to Battle Angel, to Evangelion -- are sure to come out of the wood works by the droves.
Ghost in the Shell is probably my all-time favorite anime/manga franchise, and the possibility of seeing the complex storyline and detailed technological concepts simplified to pander to US audiences really bothers me.
Plus there's the fact that what works in animation doesn't necessarily transfer equally well into live action. Animation -- being a totally contrived and artistically stylized medium -- allows for more flexibility in an audience's suspension-of-disbelief threshold. Transferring an animated movie to live action would only highlight the gaps in believability of the original story unless some key adjustments are made. And those adjustments could ultimately undermine what made the qualities that made original so great. And what would really suck is that if the live action movie turns out horribly, audiences would assume the worst of the original anime and manga worsening the already low-esteem mainstream audiences have for the two mediums, which would then lead to riots, war, pestilence, and the general breakdown of civilization.
Well, maybe not that last part. So maybe I'm taking this a bit too seriously; but the way I figure it, keeping expectations low is the surest way to head off disappointment.