Ghost in the Shell – Hollywood’s $100 Million Dollar Bet.

On March 31st, 2017, come rain or shine, sleet or snow, my butt will be firmly in its seat at the local theater to watch the Hollywood adaptation of one of my favorite animes: Ghost in the Shell. It’s no secret among my friends that Ghost in the Shell is one of my favorite animes and manga series to come out of Japan since Akira. I like the anime so much, that I even posted a video on Youtube in the form of a short poetry-ode to the original animated film to the collective chagrin, troll-baiting, and amusement of several people. I still haven’t died of embarrassment over that stunt, but there’s still a chance if tags attached to the vid net any extra traffic.

There is reason to be excited about the film. Unlike other western adaptations of previous animes, this one has been given, a rumored, nine-figure budget to ensure top quality throughout the film’s production (Scarlett Johansson alone has been paid $10 Million and given top billing to star in the film as The Major). Even Mamoru Oshii, the director of the first original anime film from 1995 endorsed the adaptation, for what it’s worth (although there has been no word from the original creator of the series, himself, Masamune Shirow, which is troubling, but not suspect). And considering the source material, which not only involved action sequences that inspired The Matrix, but also included philosophical intrigues that drew from the likes of Rene Descartes, Jean Baudrillard, and Friedrich Nietzsche it also makes good on being a thinking-person’s action film. Simply put: it’s a series too cool and too clever to easily screw up.

However, this film’s success probably fills me with even more dread than its failure. After the stinkers that were the Chun-li movie and the Dragon Ball Evolution film, I’ve come to expect this to be the best Hollywood could do in terms of adapting anime for the American screen and calibrated my expectations accordingly. Having said that, Ghost in the Shell comes into the fold at a unique time in Hollywood.

The elephant in the room, which has only gotten bigger over the past year, is that Marvel and DC films have been doing okay, but not stellar. Just looking at the budgets and revenues of films like Batman vs. Superman and Suicide Squad, both made their bottom line in terms of dollars (thanks in part to China and Europe). However, both also received poor reception from both fans and critics. Not only that, but countless other superhero films have been coming in fast and furious to the point where some comic book fans can’t even keep up. Fans are getting bombarded with so many superhero films, that movie studios are now strategizing on how to combat the movie consumer’s growing “superhero fatigue.” Knowing the movie industry’s knack for marketing, I’m sure this will probably work in the short term (or as long as they can keep releasing sequels to the Avengers and rebooting Batman), but the writing on the wall is clear: some other trend is going to have to pick up the slack.

Ghost in the Shell, I believe, represents Hollywood’s first true dip into doing a legit, high-budget, and highly marketed anime adaptation aimed at America, as well as targeting the Ghost in the Shell fans who live here. If successful, there are dozens and dozens of other anime series that the Hollywood machine may be more than happy to appropriate, repackage and pass off as something fresh and exciting (because, seriously, how many people outside of reddit and anime conventions know what the hell Cowboy Bebop, Evangelion, or Gundam Wing are?). For Hollywood, Ghost in the Shell may be their quiet hope that they can start the pivot to sell “new” franchises and create new “fans” of future anime adaptations made for Westerners, by Westerners, and featuring Western actors.

They’ll do this because Hollywood knows something that most diehard fans seem to fail to comprehend which is that most people who watch these comic book films, like myself, never made much of a connection with DC and Marvel outside of the movies that got released for mass consumption. Sure, there is loyalty (I happen to be a fan of the X-Men films), but that extends only as far as theater ticket buys with accompanied Blu-Ray releases. The last time that I even bought any comic blatantly Marvel or DC was back in 1999. I wouldn’t have even known what Guardians of the Galaxy was (much less that it started as a comic by Marvel) had there not been a movie about it. I consider myself a fan of X-Men, but I can only count on one hand the number of comic issues I actually read of that series. The X-Men movies and the animated T.V series are, truly, my only way of having any real knowledge about the X-Men universe. When I admit to these kinds of things, it tends to piss off the more die-in-the-wool fans who actually did the work. Even the more polite ones often try and fail at hiding their internal eye-rolling. I usually deal with these encounters with polite indifference at best and passive-aggressive trolling at worst.

But now I may finally get a taste of my own medicine. Which brings us back to the dread that I’ve been feeling. This movie may fail, and I’ll be upset, but I’ll live. This movie may also become a success and spawn a whole new wave of fans who gush about Scarlett Johansson’s role as The Major without caring or even knowing that there were three graphic novels, four anime films, and two anime T.V series that preceded it, much less seek any of that out. I don’t know if I’m ready to confront the me that may have to face that kind of world sometime soon.

Either way, whether I like it or not, I’m just going to have to deal with it; and, hopefully, it won’t take me that long. We’ll all just have to wait and see.

A Poem for World Poetry Day

Tell me, muse, if today is the day

that the zeitgeist hath decided to come out and play?

For while we toil past terrible times, it gleefully spins events

without reason or rhyme.

Tread lightly, O Zeitgeist, for we are only flesh and bone.

We don’t mind a dull moment, despite what you’ve been told.

And, muse, keep us steady, ready and inspired.

To take our consciousness just a bit higher; 

but keep the zeitgeist at bay,

for he cares not for our feelings, I’m afraid to say.

Sincerely,

Philip N.R Hauser

[Excerpt] Con Job [Short Story]

“…and you don’t have to believe me when I tell you this, but those cosplayers were the biggest sluts I had ever met in my life. All those chicks wearing those vocaloid, school girl outfits and that bikini mercenary shit that’s so popular right now. Yeah, I’ve seen some real babes around here and they will spread their legs for just about anything. You wouldn’t fucking believe it, dude. Dude, you don’t even know, bro. You don’t even know. But they won’t give me the time of day anymore, man, cuz I’m thirty, and I’m not a voice actor, or some web artist, or Youtuber, or whatever the fuck it is they want now. But, dude, everybody gets laid at J-Con. Everybody!”

Amanda and I are sitting across from this guy at our small table. We stare at him blankly in the dub-step speaker blasting, neon framed, black light, darkness of the hotel bar as the anime convention happening throughout the rest of the Omni Tower Hotel enters its third, and final, night in a city that I can’t remember the name of. My cigarette that I was about to light up and enjoy nearly falls out of my mouth; the butt now dangling from a precarious corner in the clutches of my lips. After my first two nights of dealing with the utter bullshit of this temp job involving breaking up fights, drug deals, theft rings, and  following up on over a dozen sexual harassment complaints, this night was supposed to have the potential of being decent before getting subjected to this rant. For the first time in my life, I make face-to-face contact with a guy who openly admits to buying into the “everybody gets laid at J-Con” myth, and he wasn’t some anonymous user on a message board. Despite myself, I smirk at this burned out looking, black clothed, cowboy-goth wearing shades in this dark, loud, dungeon of a crowded bar full of old-school anime nerds, wee-a-boos, and cosplayers.

I turn to look at Amanda, and she’s looking just as tired as we do, with bags under her eyes and her long, blond hair done up in a bun that hadn’t seen a shower since the other night when she got puked on by a belligerent, drunk con goer dressed up as a Transformer. She also came dressed in all black tonight, with her leather jacket and matching steel toe boots (for the purpose of major ass kicking, I guess).

I finger the threads of my dark green suit and dark purple button up shirt, and look down at my black sneakers. I’m proud that my color scheme makes us, as a trio, come off as significantly less fascist looking, or at the very least, less goth, and therefore more approachable. And I say that in spite of our standard issued red lanyards, blue-tooth head sets, and stun guns modded to look like SMG rifles (which seem intimidating, but only fire pellets that pop on impact, sending  a charged, tazer-style shock to the target).

Amanda turns to look at me. She sucks in her cheeks, trying to either hold back a laugh or an insult. She glances back at our fellow partner in con security, shakes her head, and takes out her phone.

“Penny for your thoughts, Amanda?” I ask her while I take out my cigarette, having given up on lighting it.

“I’m thinking…” she says, raising her eyebrows at the screen of her smartphone as she types something into it, “that I should have listened to my mom and finished college.”

“Hey,” says goth cowboy, “it’s fucking real, babe. Some will even stream their shit through VR now. I’ve seen it”

“Virtual reality?” I ask.

“Fuck yeah, dude,” he tells me, “and if you know the right dealer, you can take some LSD while you VR, and it’s guaranteed total immersion. Fuck, do that, but with an MMO, and you can actually fool yourself into thinking you’re an orc mage.”

I hear my phone start to buzz and I pull it out from my pocket to take a look. It’s Amanda,via text:

Hey, this guy’s a fucking creep. Wanna bail?

I look at the text for a few more seconds, trying to come up with something.

“What’s up?” goth cowboy asks me.

I sigh.

“Damien again,” I show my phone to Amanda, pretending to have received a text from our employer, “boss man needs an assist in the dealer room.”

Amanda takes my phone, making sure that goth cowboy can’t see the screen. She looks at it for a few seconds. I imagine her counting to five in her head before saying something.

Copyright © 2017 Philip N.R Hauser

 

An Introduction, A Quickie, Or As You Like It.

Dear Reader,

Hopefully, you’ll never see this because I’ll have a huge archive of postings by the time you get here, but just in case: hello and welcome! Not much to share yet, but if you like any of the following: action, suspense, horror, sci-fi, urban fantasy, v-logs done entirely in rhyme, v-logs with no rhyme, or postings on anything for very little dime, then stick around! I have some very cool things to show you.

Sincerely,

P.N.R Hauser