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I remember the first wave of Hollywood's flirtation with anime, and it was obvious at the time that none of the films that they talked about making were actually going to get made. They would have all been prohibitively expensive and even more prohibitively bizarre, a combination that never ends well for studios.
For a while, Guillermo Del Toro was positively manic about getting "Domu" made as a movie, and I'll admit… I would have loved to have seen that, but I acknowledge that as a commercial proposition, that is insane. "Akira" has gone through the development mill for years with any number of different directors attached, and I've read several radically different scripts for that potential project over that time. James Cameron came very close to making "Battle Angel Alita" instead of "Avatar," and there was a period of time where he transformed an entire floor of the Lightstorm building, allowing his artists to work in the environment from the movie, with the rich people's paradise overhead and the garbage-strewn Earth below.
"Ghost In The Shell" has always seemed like one of the most likely projects to actually make the jump from anime to live-action because it's got a strong character in the lead and there are a number of different possible stories to tell, some of which seem to be fairly traditional action tales. Anime is very strange at times, and there's only so much strange you can indulge if you're making something that costs hundreds of millions of dollars to accomplish.
With "Ghost In The Shell," one of the biggest issues in terms of doing a live-action adaptation is that so much of the iconography has already been poached by mainstream Hollwyood action filmmaking anyway. It's safe to say that when the Wachowskis pitched "The Matrix," one of the things they were trying to do was make a live action movie that played with physics in the ways that anime did. Trinity looks like she burst right out of "Ghost In The Shell," and the Sentinels in the "Matrix" films totally look like they could be pulled directly off the pages of the manga or out of the various films or TV shows in the franchise.
Rupert Sanders was up against a fairly stiff piece of writing when making "Snow White And The Huntsman." It is a deadly script, at least as presented in the final film, and familiar in so many ways that it's hard to even judge it as a film. What it did have going for it was a visual style that seemed fairly sophisticated. There are some technical things Sanders did that were very impressive, like his handling of the dwarves or the ways he depicted the effects of the hallucinogenic apples or the Miyazaki-like king stag of the forest. The stuff between Charlize Theron and the creepy oil-like mirror figure is beautiful to look at. Does that mean he's going to be the right guy to finally get "Ghost In The Shell" made? I don't know, but I am curious to see what he does with Public Security Section 9 and the Japan of 50 years from now.
In the first film, Section 9 goes after The Puppet Master, and we meet Motoko Kusanagi, a sleeker and more outrageous sort of robocop. We're introduced to the concept of the cyberbrains, Momoru Oshii's two feature films are really beautiful and very inwardly-driven in terms of character. William Wheeler, Laeta Kalogridis, and Jamie Moss have all taken shots at the script since Dreamworks came onboard in 2008, and I've heard repeatedly that Steven Spielberg is a genuine fan of Masamune Shirow's original manga and all of the various film and TV incarnations over the years. He's determined to get it made, which is why Dreamworks has put in the five years of development. They even released the sequel to Oshii's original film, called "Innocence," when it got a US release.
No word yet on what version of the many different iterations of "Ghost In The Shell" that they're actually planning to adapt, but one would suspect it's all up for grabs, and that they'd try to build something unique to this new Dreamworks incarnation. This is, if done properly, a big franchise for Dreamworks, if the number of titles that have been generated for French film and TV are anything to judge by.
No word on when Sanders will tackle this one. He's got a lot of other projects also in development. It's a big vote of confidence for Sanders from Dreamworks. This one's important in him, so they must see something in him.