Premiering in the United States on March 31, Ghost in the Shell will open to audiences around the country. As fans finally get to see how well Rupert Sanders adapted the Japanese manga title. Even though the film has endured it's fair dose of whitewashing controversy but with superstar Scarlett Johansson onboard, hopes are high that the $120m production from Paramount Pictures will live up to the hype.
Now that the verdict is in from many reputable sources, a consensus cannot be reached. Glamorous and edgy on one side of the fence. Tepid and lifeless on the other. You be the judge.
Glittering Spectacle Could Be ScarJo's Own Bourne Moment
Guy Lodge of Variety gives glowing praise to the filmmakers for treating the source material with respect.
"Spectacularly honoring the spirit and aesthetic of Mamoru Oshii’s beloved animated adaptations without resorting wholly to slavish cosplay, this is smart, hard-lacquered entertainment that may just trump the original films for galloping storytelling momentum and sheer, coruscating visual excitement."
Yet he understands that it is the look of the movie that carries the most weight, something Lodge argues Sanders has carried out effectively.
"Still, it’s as spectacle that Ghost in the Shell operates principally and most effectively, as one glittering digital marvel succeeds another."
Tom Robey of The Telegraph issues a 4/5 star rating to put the case forward that the director has come on in leaps and bounds from his previous work in an action franchise.
"Directing is Rupert Sanders, who improves massively on his emptily glossy debut Snow White and the Huntsman. His visual assault this time is thrillingly well-organised and 80 per cent dazzling."
Robey goes a step further. Saying that the star of the piece could be in line for her own series of titles. Something that might not be so crazy with Marvel dragging their feet on a potential Black Widow spinoff.
"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."
Robotic Yawn That Kills Life Out Of Character
Paul Byrnes of The Sydney Morning Herald offers a 3/5 star rating for the blockbuster, making the point that the American influence has it's finger prints all over this Asian classic.
"The live action film is a co-production between Paramount and various Asian partners – very much the way things are trending – but with an English director, Rupert Sanders, whose last film was Snow White and The Huntsman (2012).That makes it an interesting hybrid, in the sense that you can read fairly clearly the way a Hollywood studio has imposed itself on an Asian property that already had its own recognition factor and creative integrity."
Chock full of action, Byrnes remarks that the story has been lost amid a wave of cool fighting sequences.
"For all the visual quality, it's let down by story – partly because Paramount has insisted on shoot-outs, punch-ups and careening cars. Yawn and double yawn. The manga had ideas and brains and not so much violence; the film has action and a slightly queasy perv factor. No surprises there, but a disappointment nevertheless."
Jordan Mintzer of THR describes the title as a CGI machine that only offers the aesthetic of a pleasing movie, without any of the substance.
"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."
Mintzer concludes with Johansson herself, sticking up in her corner to state that she is doing the best with a limited framework.
"In an amalgam of her roles in Her, Lucy and Under the Skin, Johansson toes the line between ass-kicking action and a distant unearthliness that often feels, well, robotic. It’s not her best performance, though it’s hard to do much in such a slick and lifeless movie. Perhaps Ghost in the Shell needed to be more human after all."