With a title like "How Not to Adapt a Movie," it's unsurprising that Nerdwriter decided to focus his latest video essay on one of 2017’s greatest flops: Ghost in the Shell. He’s quick to point out that director Rupert Sanders was not saddled with the task of remaking the 1995 animated film, but actually to take into consideration the entire manga universe and create a new story.
In Nerdwriter's opinion, the biggest problem with Sanders' approach is that he decided to take images directly from the animated film and put them on an entirely different story—and this is only one of the reasons why the entire film feels so jilted.
The recreation of these images in the 2017 film goes way beyond an homage, and the shot for shot remakes end up serving more as a distraction from the quality of the plot. Even the way they are shot just feels, well, wrong.
The bright colors of the original anime were replaced by a sort of grayscale, the characters are far less developed, and in the words of Nerdwriter, “It not only fails to recreate the beauty of its predecessor; it fails to understand the purpose of that beauty."
In this case, he means that the filmmakers really didn’t understand the themes of the 1995 film and how the stylistic aesthetics were used in support of them. The chief culprit is a distinct lack of exploration of the relationship between the sprawling nature of the city and the concept of our cyborg hero trying to frame an identity for herself. In the 2017 version, all we get are “cool visual effects” with no purpose or feeling behind them.
"Adaptations and remakes don’t require strict adherence or obedience or even necessarily respect."
The script perpetuates the filmmaker’s blind eye towards substance as well. Somehow they added 20 minutes to the film but merely brushed the surface on a few of the 1995 storylines, rendering them essentially useless to the plot as a whole. And thus a complete waste of time.
This brings us directly to the Nerdwriter’s central thesis in this outstanding essay. “Those who adapt works of art should be given the creative license to make the story work for them, but you can’t just mine the source material for parts. Adaptations and remakes don’t require strict adherence or obedience or even necessarily respect, just an understanding of what made the original so powerful in the first place.”