Now only a couple of short weeks away from its release, the trailer for the much anticipated live-action adaptation of the Ghost in the Shell manga comic book series is in high rotation. The trailer has received much praise for its impressive special effects and dazzling action sequences, but it is the expertly crafted and positioned music that adds the depth and intrigue that makes this trailer stand out from the rest.
From the very first moment, the trailer blurs the often nebulous line where sound design transcends FX and takes on a musical role. The synthesized chords set the ominous tone of the opening scene. The music quickly devolves as the on-screen action suddenly begins to unfold. The music effectively augments the frenzied onset of violence, abandoning the previous stagnant aural space for one filled with rapid dynamic swells, wobbling bass, and percussion.
The sharp attack and subsequent lingering echo of a single gunshot demarcates the end of the action as the audience is transported to a new scene. Here, relative silence accompanies key plot dialogue. A cymbal roll serves as a transition into a rendition of Depeche Mode’s "Enjoy the Silence” by Ki Theory. The cover represents a significant stylistic departure from the original, embracing an alternative rock/electronic affect, featuring remix-esque breaks and rhythmic embellishment throughout. Though Ki Theory’s interpretation of the piece is instantly recognizable, the grittier and more futuristic tone of the song resonates with the film’s cybernetic aesthetic.
The lyrics mirror the on-screen action. “Words like violence break the silence” echo as Scarlett Johansson’s character punches a man who subsequently falls to the ground as the instruments cut to silence before the inevitable crescendo back into the fray. The trailer is cut in perfect time with the song, emphatically punctuating each shot, further highlighting the rhythmic remix elements. The trailer ends with a suddenly stripped-down coda as the synthesizers quote a final melodic phrase, leaving the audience sufficiently unsettled and simultaneously wanting more.
The choice to include a cover of Depeche Mode’s 1990 hit single is not insignificant—the publication of the original manga comic book series closely coincided with the song’s release, running from May 1989 to November 1990. Indeed, trailers using the previous generation’s popular music as a way of capitalizing on nostalgia is an all too common trend in Hollywood (à la Guardians of the Galaxy). Here, the futuristic cover of “Enjoy the Silence” breathes fresh air into two old classics.
– Andrew Sproule