There is a scene in “Ghost in the Shell” where the main character, who is a cyborg, wakes up in the dark and narrow room where she lives and casually draws the curtains open. An array of sky high, dense skyscrapers looms in front of her like trees in a giant forest, revealing the breathtakingly futuristic cityscape of a vast and glorious Asian metropolis.
It’s not the first time that the city of Hong Kong inspires makers of cyberpunk cinema. “Blade Runner” is another popular reference to this unusual city with the mixed British and Chinese past. In “Ghost in the Shell,” however, aspects of Hong Kong are literally found in almost every scene, as the Hollywood blockbuster stays remarkably faithful to the original 1995 Japanese manga movie. Hong Kong is a complex, fascinating “city without ground” that is made of-almost- exclusively sky high towers and spiralling highways. Its stark contrasts are the ideal backdrop for fast-paced cyberpunk action, while its traditional Asian subtlety and finesse is perfectly in tune with the high powered technological advancements shown in the film.
Here are the major Hong Kong aspects spotted in “Ghost in the Shell”:
Landmark buildings: Hong Kong’s old residential ‘70s buildings with the visible air-conditioners and run-down facades add lots of urban value in “Ghost in the Shell.” They’re even more distinctive than its shiny skyscrapers, as their seedy character is reminiscent of the infamous Kowloon Walled City, and Hong Kong’s “dark” past. Section 9 in the film was made after the Hong Kong Cultural Centre.
Elevated walkways: There’s something undeniably intriguing in the city’s elevated walkways. They literally take things to the next level, as they are a fascinating vision of the future, where streets and walkways in big cities are built completely separately. Connecting towers that are built on podiums, they’re also evidence that a big part of the urban public life now takes place way above the ground.
Chinese street signs, the tram and neon lights: The beloved Hong Kong tram, otherwise known as “Ding Ding” is seen through a sea of Chinese commercial street signs. Both the tram and the streets signs — even more so if they’re neon lights — are important bits of Hong Kong nostalgia and cultural heritage that local people are eager to preserve.
The Old Kai Tak Airport of Hong Kong: In a very brief scene we see an aircraft flying unusually close to the city. This is a clear reference to the now cult Kai Tak International airport. Built not far from the city’s towering skyscrapers, Kai Tak used to be one of the world’s most dangerous airports. A pilot needed great technical skill and determination to land an aircraft on its runway, as it flew dangerously close to rattling apartment buildings, casting its shadow on bystanders.
Photo credit: Creative Commons