Watch: How Not to Adapt a Movie

This year's remake of 'Ghost in the Shell' seemed doomed from the start. Nerdwriter knows where to place the blame. 

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.”      

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I approached the film from the perspective of not seeing the original anime or knowing much about the story or main plot twists. I watched this movie and was pleasantly surprised at its delivery. It wasn't as bad as a majority of the people said it was (in my opinion). It wasn't phenomenal, but it was enjoyable and worth watching, especially going in to it with no expectations or previous knowledge of the franchise.

August 3, 2017 at 2:00PM


That was really enlightning.

What a great analysis.

August 4, 2017 at 3:31AM, Edited August 4, 3:31AM


True that.
I haven't seen either of the works; however, the art and wisdom that came together in creation of both the works are quite honestly admirable.
The hypothesis and the considerations in the video essay were so meticulously highlighted that I feel almost certain about not liking either film - not because of the critical POVs but because I enjoyed watching this review so much.

August 7, 2017 at 4:43AM

Tanay Chaudhari
Film Appreciation, Reviewing, Screenwriting (in that order)

Why doesn't NFS credit the videos within the headlines of these articles? I always enjoy the videos posted, but why does NSF make it look like they're trying to take credit for other's content? You guys give them a tiny mention as a "source" (despite being the whole basis of the article) and a throwaway mention before you post their content. I appreciate NFS aggregating some good content, but these third-party videos deserve more credit than NFS gives them

August 4, 2017 at 11:26AM, Edited August 4, 11:27AM


I've haven't seen either films yet. I'm not sure which one I'll watch first now. I will say, I don't really expect the latest film to be a straight copy of the original. I figure Hollywood did to this what they did to Total Recall. Might be fun to look at.

August 4, 2017 at 3:10PM

Dantly Wyatt
Writer, Director, Content Creator.

While I can agree with the points in this video essay about adaptations... I still genuinely loved the film. It was a pleasant homage to the original - which I have watched many times since its original release, and own the remastered DVD edition.

I saw the 2017 film in theaters and that initial experience definitely did its job regarding all of the homage scenes. I have it on Bluray now and after watching it again (before even seeing this article and essay), I can see how those particular scenes feel more like fan-service, but overall the adaptation still holds up, albeit to a different underlying narrative.

For me, the story was much more personal and I can see why the subdued tones and overall darker tone of the film contrast from the original to add a certain emotional weight to the character - the "audience's" avatar into the world. Even as a male, I could still put myself into the character's position (only slightly less so for Kuze). There is plenty of talk about Hollywood trends and this storytelling approach definitely follows suit with the trend of internalization.

In the original, much of the visual narrative (much like a lot of other Japanese anime) conveys externalized concepts - when the video essay is describing the camera angles all relating to the human perspective, the narrative he extrapolated from this was the concept of self-identity in a dense urban city.

The new film, at least for me, took a much more existential, and thus internal approach, the internal crisis of self-identity as we face more invasive technological enhancement, especially in the ever-connected dimension of the digital realm.

This film definitely feels like it was meant for the American audience due to the storytelling approach and focus more on one pivotal concept (there are others in there, just heavily subdued as the video essay begins to point out).

The emotional pique of the film, for me at least, was when she first visits her mother and discovers the real truth of her identity. Not the emotion coming from the Major, but rather the mother. It's exactly what the audience needed, and I absolutely love when storytellers give the audience what they need, not what they want.

I can only speak from my experience of the film. I came in not really knowing what i "wanted" out of the film, but I definitely got what I needed. I think far too many people who claim to be disappointed with it walked in with a very specific want and thus were not receptive to what the film was really trying to give them.

August 7, 2017 at 2:29AM, Edited August 7, 2:29AM

cameron bashaw
Project Studio Owner

How not adapt a movie is one of my favorite movies. Content wise this is the best movie but box official wise this movie considered as the flop. I watched this movie on terrarium tv app. This terrarium tv app offers lots of movies to watch for free. Download Terrarium Tv apk from the given official link. This terrarium tv is an android application but you can use this app on PC with the bluestacks android emulator. Click on this link for more info about Terrarium tv on pc with bluestacks.

September 27, 2017 at 2:33AM, Edited September 27, 2:36AM