In the lead-up to this week’s release of “Ghost In The Shell” starring Scarlett Johansson, Paramount Pictures hasn’t been able to pivot the conversation away from the film’s casting and criticisms of white-washing the anime-based source material. Whether or not those issues will affect ticket sales remains to be seen, but as for the movie itself, the big-budget remake is drawing mixed notices from critics.
The reviews are out (ours will be arriving soon) and opinion seems to fall squarely in the middle. Some are dazzled by Rupert Sanders‘ visual approach, while others remain far less impressed, but suffice to say, if the studio was hoping critical consensus could help boost interest in the movie, they were mistaken. Still, with no major competition in cinemas other than the behemoth “Beauty And The Beast” to get in the way, the film could still see some solid success. My prediction? It’s going to underperform domestically but do big numbers overseas. Here’s what the critics had to say:
The Telegraph: For Johansson, this could easily be a franchise in the making, her own futuristic, post-human equivalent of a John Wick or Bourne. It needs the embrace of a willing audience first, but with trappings this glintingly cool and seductive, it’s hard to see how the offer can be refused.
Variety: In “Ghost in the Shell,” the mind and soul of a brilliant original being are extracted, preserved, and rehoused in a sleek, expensively built, technologically advanced new body, enhancing her original abilities at some cost to her identity. That’s the premise, of course, of the cult manga created by Masamune Shirow in 1989, but it’s also an apt enough description of what has happened with director Rupert Sanders’ fast, flashy, frequently ravishing live-action transmutation.
Total Film: If Ghost never feels fully original – you’ll constantly be reminded of other sci-fis besides 1995’s Ghost, and the final voiceover feels cribbed from Batman Begins – it benefits from feeling self-contained, and moves with much more zip than Sanders’ gloomy Snow White. This is a rare blockbuster that doesn’t sacrifice its standalone quality in a bid to build a franchise. Though if this does end up warranting a follow-up, we wouldn’t need any convincing to dive back into this world.
The Guardian: It’s a spectacular movie, watchable in its way, but one which – quite apart from the “whitewashing” debate – sacrifices that aspect from the original which over 20 years has won it its hardcore of fans: the opaque cult mystery, which this film is determined to solve and to develop into a resolution, closed yet franchisable.
Empire: Perhaps it’s been long enough for an audience to glide over the advertisement-dominated, skyscraperscape of the 2017 Ghost In The Shell and not feel like it’s just Blade Runner re-scanned. Or that the Major’s psychic tussle to recover the truth of her life before she became a hard-bodied, crime-fighting, walking weapon is just another version of Murphy’s struggle in RoboCop. But if you’re a longstanding fan of this genre, then the original’s deep, abiding influence on Hollywood (beyond The Matrix there’s A.I.: Artificial Intelligence, Minority Report, Avatar, hell, even HBO’s Westworld) makes its remake feel derivative of so many movies other than its source material.
The Wrap: Marshaling the very latest in digital photography, stereoscopic imaging and cutting-edge effects, “Ghost in the Shell” is a technical knockout, a here-and-now valentine to what design wizardry Hollywood can pull off in 2017. At the same time, it does so in service of a tired tale full of repurposed visual tricks, storytelling clichés and big-studio concessions, to the extent that the film offers a sleek modern polish to a story that feels about 15 years too late.
Screen Daily: So-called “fake news” may irk the current resident of the White House but authentic fake news — an entire identity — is at the slightly sterile heart of Ghost In The Shell, whose fetching heroine (played by Scarlett Johansson) is told a striking lie about who and what she is. Self-selecting audiences will probably be won over by the mood, wanton firepower and top-notch visuals on display in this lavish live-action version of manga artist Masamune Shirow’s modern classic. A “ghost” inhabits the no-nonsense female protagonist but mature viewers, scanning the busy horizon for more than a ghost of a plot, may find the proceedings more exhausting than rewarding.
THR: If the “ghost” of anime classic Ghost in the Shell refers to the soul looming inside of its killer female cyborg, then this live-action reboot from director Rupert Sanders really only leaves us the shell: a heavily computer-generated enterprise with more body than brains, more visuals than ideas, as if the original movie’s hard drive had been wiped clean of all that was dark, poetic and mystifying.
South China Morning Post: Rupert Sanders’ live-action cyberpunk thriller is, at times, a wonder to behold. Based on Mamoru Oshii’s 1995 cult anime of the same name, Ghost in the Shell is a compelling vision of the future. It’s a world where the virtual and reality collide to dazzling, dense and detailed effect, a beautiful mix of CGI work shot in New Zealand and footage captured on the streets of Hong Kong.
Irish Times: There comes a moment in Mamoru Oshii’s 1995 cyberpunk classic Ghost in the Shell when existentially troubled cyborg Motoko Kusanagi is confronted by the mysterious AI known as the Puppet Master: “A copy is merely a copy,” he says, as the heroine ponders Cartesian dualism in the age of cybernetic bodies. And sometimes it’s rather less than that. Watching this slick, synthetic pointless Hollywood reboot of Oshii’s film, one is constantly reminded of watching the slick, synthetic, pointless Hollywood reboot of Total Recall.