On the eve of its theatrical release, the first wave of reviews for Ghost in the Shell has surfaced online and at least so far, the critical consensus ranges from good to flat-out pointless.
Staying with the more positive verdicts for the time being, below you’ll find that most, if not all review snippets shower praise on the film’s cutting-edge CGI, which brings the bustling city of neo-Tokyo to life overly well. And though it’s not necessarily a case of style over substance, the main complaint leveled against Ghost in the Shell is that Rupert Sanders’ manga adaptation is derivative of its modern-day genre peers, as opposed to being a nuanced account of Masamune Shirow’s genre-defining source material. Elsewhere, Scarlett Johansson also drew praise for her performance as Major, a best-in-class cyborg sent onto the city streets to fight terrorism head on.
We’ve collected a handful of those reviews below for you to check out. Take a look and be sure to stay tuned to WGTC over the coming days for our own verdict to hit the site.
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 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.
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.
Perhaps most interesting of all is how some of the above snippets allude to Ghost in the Shell‘s franchise potential, even if Rupert Sanders’ live-action manga movie doesn’t necessarily end in some form of a cliffhanger. That means Paramount has at least left the door ajar for a future installment, though it’s really the film’s box office performance that will go on to become the deciding factor.
Ghost in the Shell boots online on March 31st, and you can take a peek at the movie’s über-stylish opening sequence to further whet your appetite.