Don't get me wrong. I'm still worried about this movie. I think there's a lot of ways it can still go terribly awry. But from what little has been leaked out in the new trailer released today, the needle is bending that much more towards it a) being a genuinely good movie, and b) grappling with all the issues inherent in this production.
First, the trailer:
Yes, the crew has recreated all the iconic shots we're familiar with — the dive off the building, the invisible fight between the apartment towers, the sight of Motoko (Scarlett Johansson) waking up in her apartment, the "shell" of Motoko's newly created body cracking open (a nice nod to the title sequence of the first film). Plus, we get a glimpse of Batou (Pilou Asbæk, looking really fitting for the role) both with and without his eyes, the implication being that perhaps they're a later addition, in the same way we only just now get to see the latest incarnation of Professor Xavier without his hair. And yeah, the GITS universe as realized here looks appropriately garish and hyper-real — this is our world, just pushed a little further in the directions it's already headed. Minor complaint: some of the shots of her in that inviso-fight look terribly pasted-together, but maybe that's a rough composite.
What's truly new this time around is some sense of what the story really revolves around: Motoko herself. There is almost certain to be one of GITS's standard-issue multi-layered political plots, but the real story appears to be lingering questions about who she really is and why she exists in her current form. Good, I thought: drill into that. Stories about hackers and government conspiracy have always just been the cheese in this sandwich; the meat has always been confronting one's identity in a networked, digital world.
And, again, I hope they do at least attempt to confront the fact that the character is Asian and the actress playing her is not. How they accomplish that is entirely up to them, but my point is the storyline they seem to be opting for provides them with a number of ways to pull it off. But it's also something too easily undone by the rest of the film — e.g., by making all the villains and second bananas Asian, and by having safely Western characters take all the dominant and positive roles.
I also keep hearkening back to Takeshi Kitano's presence in what is ostensibly a key role: Aramaki, Motoko's boss. Aramaki is well-spoken and eloquent, and Kitano is not known for such roles. I won't say he's never been in them — his turn in Nagisa Oshima's Gohatto, where he played Shinsengumi commander Toshizo Hijikata (a role he was at least twenty years too old for, but whatever), hewed closer to what he might do here than, say, his turn in Outrage/Outrage Beyond. But I'm willing to give Kitano the benefit of the doubt here — after all, he's one of the most direct connections this project has back to its homeland.
One thing that is not and has never been a gripe for me is whether or not the film sticks to the original storyline. For one, which storyline? The GITS continuum has so many possible points of entry and ways to be run through at this point that there really isn't an original except in the sense that the comic came before the movie, which both preceded the TV series, etc. From what little I've cobbled together on my own, it sounds like they're taking a "greatest hits" approach, where highlights from across the franchise are being knit together into a single story. I'm fine with that. All I ask is that they not let the really important stuff about this story slip through their fingers.
At least they didn't use Styx's "Mr. Roboto" as the obligatory pop tune.
See you in March.