Ghost in the Shell is out now! Buy your tickets here!
In The Matrix Neo is woken from his sleep by a flashing cursor on his computer that reveals a message to him reading “The Matrix has you.” Of course, that cryptic message leads our hero down the path of self-discovery, kung-fu ass-kickerery and eventually leads him to become “The One.” Well, you guys, it turns out that Ghost in the Shell was the one who had The Matrix. The cyberpunk film heavy on philosophical ideology and plenty of kung fu film-influenced fight scenes was heavily reliant on the manga turned anime, Ghost in the Shell.
Plenty of art pulls from other art but the influence on The Wachowski’s film is incredibly obvious when watched back to back. With all the recent, exciting news about a possible return to The Matrix franchise and today's live-action Ghost in the Shell release. It seems like a perfect time to take in a double feature and compare these two films side-by-side.
Ghost in the Shell, originally penned by Masamune Shirow in manga form, got the adaption treatment in '95 by director Mamoru Oshii. At the time, the only anime I was familiar with was Fist of the North Star. But when Ghost in the Shell was released, I remember anime became a lot more prevalent in the states. Hell, even my small town’s video store received a copy. I had been a big fan of '80s cyberpunk, so this was a pretty mind-blowing and super exciting experience, easily comparable to some of my favorites in the genre.
The film revolved around cyborg Major Motoko Kusanagi, her Section 9 team, and their investigation into someone called “The Puppet Master”, a hacker who is able to take over certain cyborgs in order for them to accomplish huge political shifts in the world. Since most of society has been cybernetically augmented in some way or another a lot of folks are at risk. Much like The Matrix, the anime used huge action set pieces to reveal a protagonist becoming woke to Western ideals of what it means to be conscious. Neo is breaking free from The Matrix, and Motoko is waking from her ideals of a cybernetic organism. The anime did a great job of using its antagonists to help wake the conscious mind of Motoko, who begins to question cognizance and what exactly a soul is in a world where consciousness can be copied and replicated like a jpeg file or a cat gif.
In ideology, these two carry a lot of the same sensibilities, but holy smokes, when it comes to side-by-side visual comparisons of specific sequences these two films basically become a mirror for one another. Right from the beginning, both films feature green code flowing across the screen before zooming in to locate someone on a network. Deadpool, recently dubbed landing in a certain pose “the super hero landing”; he would be pleased to see that landing occurring in both The Matrix and Ghost in the Shell. Both of our heroes also use a jack located at the base of their neck in order to connect to their networks. There are scenes in both in which Neo and Motoko take cover behind a pillar torn to crumbles by bullets. For Oracle's sake! There is even a scene in both featuring shots fired across a crowded public square to pop-open some watermelons as collateral damage.
These comparisons have been noticed by fans over the years and even by the directors of both films. In several interviews and on a featurette The Wachowski’s have proudly listed off all of their influences, citing Ghost in the Shell as one of their favorites. Oshii also addressed the homages paid in The Matrix and commends The Wachowski’s for being able to think like an animator but execute it in live-action.
We are about to see a whole lot more Ghost in the Shell live-action action comparisons, and so far the trailers look to be a shot by shot remake of the anime. Hey, fingers crossed that if this does well it leads us to an all new Matrix renaissance and some more bullet-time tom foolery.