Classic anime, like video games, has a long and undignified history of being murdered by Hollywood. When it comes to adapting media deeply embedded in Asian culture, the Americans just don't get it. No surprise, then, that even putting aside the casting controversy, the popular belief has been that Ghost In The Shell, the live-action movie starring Scarlett Johansson, would suck.
The movie finally hits theaters this weekend, and the first critics' reviews just broke cover — so what's the verdict? Is #GhostInTheShell a movie in search of a soul, or has it successfully hacked into what made the manga and anime so beloved? The answer might surprise you. Let's check out what the critics have to say.
Variety: "A Stunning Digital Spectacle With Surprising Emotional Rewards"
In a highly positive review for Variety, Guy Lodge writes that Ghost In The Shell "streamlines" the source material, praising the pacing (the movie is 1h45m long), the stunning VFX work and Scarlett Johansson's reliably strong performance:
"The new film [has] a fleshier focus on backstory that yields surprising emotional rewards amid the onslaught of eye candy. As the casting discussion rages on, it’s hard to deny that Johansson's Major fuses her most internalized and most ass-kicking modes of performance to ideal effect ... One glittering digital marvel succeeds another [as] an army of cartwheeling VFX artists render this universe in the glossiest, glassiest strokes possible."
- Why ‘Blade Runner 2049’ & ‘Ghost In The Shell’ Mark The Return Of CyberPunk
- The Philosophy Of 2017's 'Ghost In The Shell' Explained
- Watch This Epic Cosplayer Transform Into The Major From 'Ghost In The Shell' With Movie Pilot's #Becoming
The Hollywood Reporter: "More Visuals Than Ideas, Ghost In The Shell Is Barely Human"
In a less enthusiastic review for The Hollywood Reporter, Jordan Mintzer is critical of the changes made from the original manga, opining that things begin promisingly but Ghost In The Shell shouldn't have screwed with the ending.
"[It's] a heavily computer-generated enterprise with more body than brains, more visuals than ideas ... Sanders and his team have clearly opted for a sleek, watered-down version that eschews much of the first film’s A.I. existentialism for a futuristic shooter that never digs deep enough ... The real issue in Ghost in the Shell may have less to do with whitewashing than with brainwashing — it boils down to yet another good vs. evil scenario where no mystery is left unsolved and conflicts are tied up in an all-too Hollywood way."
The Telegraph: "Blade Runner Levels Of Style, With A Soulful Performance From Johansson"
For the UK's Telegraph newspaper, Tim Robey is dazzled by the visuals of Ghost In The Shell, adding that it should be seen in IMAX, and that the tight story and Scar Jo's brilliant performance add a little substance to the style.
"As Blade Runner did before it, this slinky, cyberpunk action flick makes its style the entire statement, pondering a future of human-robot synergy simply by visualising it in as much eye-popping detail as possible ... Purists may not want to hear it, but the unusual disconnect between Johansson’s intelligence and her coolly dispassionate looks is ideal for the role of The Major. This could easily be a franchise in the making, a futuristic, post-human John Wick."
So far, Ghost In The Shell averages out at 64/100 on Metacritic with a 71% Rotten Tomatoes score, putting it in line with recent blockbusters like Kong: Skull Island. That's a major win for a movie which could've been buried by its controversy.
Will Ghost In The Shell be hacking into your wallet this weekend when it hits theaters this weekend?