How legendary John Dykstra brought ‘Ghost in the Shell’s’ effects to life

well, I don’t know, existence. “It’s anime and the graphic novels. They have a certain caricature quality; the villains are bigger than life, the heroes are bigger than life, and the existential crises are bigger than … Dykstra came in after production was underway to oversee execution of several specific elements and, perhaps also, to lend his keen perspective on visual narrative to the overall project.“The thing about ‘Ghost in the Shell’ is it’s an interpretation of a different storytelling medium,” the 69-year-old Long Beach native points out.
Whatever baggage you bring to the live-action “Ghost in the Shell” movie — that it seems more like “Robocop” than the complex, forward-looking science fiction found in Shirow Masamune’s original manga comics and Mamoru Oshii’s anime features or that star Scarlett Johansson isn’t the least bit Japanese — you have to concede one point: This thing looks amazing.Some of that can be attributed to John Dykstra, the legendary special-effects specialist whose eye-popping career includes the original 1977 “Star Wars,” the first TV iteration of “Battlestar Galactica,” 1979’s first “Star Trek: The Motion Picture,” several mid-’90s “Batman” movies and early 21st century “Spider-Mans,” a couple of recent Tarantinos and “X-Men” outings and “Kong: Skull Island,” released earlier this month.
“As a result, the setting for this has to carry the mentality of the conventional blockbuster, and as a result, the environments have to be different from what you’ve seen before but carry the personality that the animes had.”Among the most amazing examples of that are the multistory high holograms throughout “Ghost’s” urban center, which The Major and her crime-fighting Section 9 comrades often run through during chases and escapes. Dykstra, who calls the towering 3-D projections “solograms” (“That’s a fake word for not-really-solid-gram,” he laughs), lent a hand in making them look real. “But it’s not the clear-cut kind of story that more traditional blockbusters pursue,” Dykstra notes.
Weta also made many other aspects of this future when humans and machines are merging like never before, such as the Japanese franchise’s signature assassin geishabots. And with costume designers Kurt and Bart, the team helped create the iconic flesh-colored, form-fitting thermoptic suit worn by Johansson’s character, The Major, a terrorist-fighting cyborg with a human brain. Much of “Ghost’s” futuristic Asian urban setting, which can loosely be described as “Blade Runner” on steroids, was designed and executed by New Zealand’s fabled Weta Workshop, Peter Jackson’s special-effects house adjacent to his studio where most of the movie was shot (along with location work in Hong Kong and Shanghai).