‘The Art of Ghost in the Shell’ Highlights the Film’s Greatest Strength

Production design, characters, and more come alive in new coffee table book.

Regardless of where you stand on Ghost in the Shell 2017’s story, performances, and overall existence, there’s one thing most of us can agree on – it’s one hell of a visually attractive film. From the character design to the look of the world itself, the various teams and talents behind the scenes succeeded in crafting and creating a high-tech environment infused with aesthetic appeal.

Fans of the film in general and of its visuals in particular will want to check out the new coffee table book from Insight Editions called The Art of Ghost in the Shell.

As they’ve done previously with films as diverse as Krampus, Pan, and The Jungle Book, the book pulls together a treasure trove of sketches, paintings, photographs (both from the film and behind the scenes), and ideas used by the filmmakers to design and build the world of the film. It’s broken into chapters focusing on individual characters, certain action sequences, the various costumes – including Major’s thermoptic suit – and more.

The text of the book, from writer David S. Cohen, details the production from its early days through its completion including interviews and quotes from various members of both crew and cast. Director Rupert Sanders first brought his vision for the film to the folks at New Zealand’s famed Weta Workshop back in 2014, and we’re made privy to the initial concepts and allowed glimpses of their evolution into what we eventually see on the screen.

The Art of Ghost in the Shell

The main draw of the book, as with the film itself, is obviously the images, but there are some interesting details to be found in the text as well. What are some examples you ask? Well…

  • Much of the film was shot in New Zealand on Weta’s stages, and the fabricated city was nicknamed Wellingkong.
  • The robotic geishas, one of whom transforms into a spider-like version, were initially going to be created digitally (via actors in green suits), but the folks at Weta convinced Sanders they could be done better through a combination of “acting, stunts, special effects makeup, animatronics, and puppetry.” Roughly 80% of what we see was shot live on-set.
  • Michael Pitt, who plays Kuze, actually did some of his own drawings for the character’s look and even insisted on having silver-blue hair.

One detail that interested me (and maybe five other people) was discovering that Scarlett Johansson’s fight trainer on the film was Richard Norton. He’s done similar duty on several other films, but I’ve always loved him as an onscreen fighter – typically as a bad guy – in films like The Octagon, Gymkata, and Jackie Chan’s Mr. Nice Guy.

The Art of Ghost in the Shell is a beautiful book. From the glossy, textured cover to the thick, art-filled pages, it highlights the film’s beauty devoid of the elements the film itself gets wrong. Check out some of the two-page spreads below, and head over to Amazon to pick up a copy of the book to see many, many more.