Project 2501 and the Making of the Live Action Opening For Ghost in the Shell

Ghost In the Shell Project 2501

As my Dad always said, “You only get one chance to make a first impression”.

Hollywood knows this, and badass title sequences have since become big bidness. They’ve evolved significantly from the title cards of old. Now works of art in their own right, they are even directed and produced by entirely different people than the film itself.

From the likes of the various babe-infused arty Bond incarnations, to the wicked dark David Fincher openers (like this one), a memorable title sequence can set the tone for the 90 minutes to come.

One such ultra-memorable sequence all the way from 1995 is that of Ghost in the Shell.

A seminal film in it’s own right, Ghost in the Shell bridged the gap between Akira and Pokemon in the West. It was a direct inspiration for The Matrix, Avatar, Deus Ex and Surrogates, and fused cool cyber-punk with fantastic animation and effects. Finally it was rounded off with a deep storyline reminiscent of Scott’s Blade Runner.

Ghost in the Shell gif Motoko

Even now the title sequence immediately stands out.

It features the cyborg protagonist, Major Motoko Kusanagi, and how she is literally created using science and tanks and computers and shit. The Art of the Title describes it as “a curious mix of 8-bit type animation, then-hi-tech CGI, dreamy anime and naked torsos”.

Check it out below:

Kusanagi’s creation in the opener is both haunting and fascinating, kind of like watching a surgical procedure synched to classical musical. The clear femininity of her form is shockingly stripped away as the film progresses and the violence escalates. She’s facially androgynous, but has that kind of killer body that you’d probably think twice before feeding her a morning-after excuse to get the fuck out of there.

While the plot revolves around a fairly simplistic government conspiracy, the subtext of Ghost is all about the spiritual distinction between being human or machine. Kusanagi’s human ghost or spirit inhabits a deadly (yet beautiful) robotic shell, and represents the middle-ground between the rapidly-evolving machine world, and the seemingly old fashioned augment-free purist humanity. Ideally placed, she asks the heavyweight questions such as “what is it to be human”. Yeah, it’s even more mentally taxing than Inception.

Project 2501 Skull Ghost in the Shell live action

Cut to nearly 20 years later and the fine folk at Project 2501 (a reference to the codename of the Puppet Master AI that gains sentience in the film) have taken it upon themselves to recreate the legendary opening in live action, using modern technology and actual flesh & blood actors. Yet fear not, there are no tin foil nipples, or dodgy matte painted backdrops here.

The word faithful does not do this jaw-dropping pet project justice.

Where-as many other scene-by-scene remakes (such as the other Psycho) failed to capture the tone and atmosphere of the original, Project 2501 nails the noir future world of technology and humanity intertwined. It could even be characterised as darker than the original, with the film heavy on the dark blues and muted greys.

Regardless, it’s insanely accurate, and like the original, strangely beautiful as the perfect woman is created in front of us from plastic and metal.

This fantastic short comes only months before the re-release to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the premiere. Recent rumblings also have it that Super-Babe Margot Robbie has been penned in to star as the Major in a major Hollywood production has also hit the interwebs. Yes, another pointless Western remake starring an American as an overtly Asian character. Surprise, surprise.

Similar to my thoughts on the Akira live action re-imagining, I doubt a Ghost’s film won’t touch the right nerves to be worth anyone’s time. However, it’s nice to know that there are people out there like the good folk on Project 2501 and the Akira Project that give a shit about preserving these anime cyberpunk classics. I could watch their stuff all day, not some 20-years-too-late Hollywood cash in.

Ghost in the Shell Major Motoko Kusanagi


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