DreamWorks’ adaptation of Ghost in the Shell, starring Scarlett Johansson, opened in Japan on Friday and the home of the original manga and anime is receiving the film more positively than American audiences did.
The general consensus among Japanse fans after seeing the Rupert Sanders-directed live-action Ghost in the Shell is that the film excels at stylish visuals but falls short on substance. On Yahoo Japans Movies, the film has a rating of 3.5 stars, earning four stars for visuals and three stars for story.
"It looked really cool and I really enjoyed it. They didn't just try and copy the original, but came up with an original story, which was a better approach," Tomki Hirano, a fan of the original Ghost in the Shell manga and anime told The Hollywood Reporter after he saw the live-action Ghost in the Shell at the Toho Cinema complex in Shinjuku.
"Because it was a Hollywood production they could use that size of budget to create those visuals of that quality,” Hirano added. Most Japanese movies work with less than ten percent of the $110 million budget afforded to Ghost in the Shell.
Ghost in the Shell has been the subject of whitewashing criticism for casting Johansson, a white actress, in the role Major Motoko Kusanagi, a Japanse woman whose consciousness is transferred into an artificial body.
"She was very cool. I loved her in The Avengers and I wanted to see this because she was in it. If they had done a Japanese live-action version they would have probably cast some silly idol [girl-band member]," said Hirano.
However, Hirano did criticize the live-action Ghost in the Shell for being shallow when compared to the source material and refusing to engage in the philosophical and existential questions of identity that were major themes of the classic 1995 Ghost in the Shell anime.
"That was the base of the original story, where does the soul reside? That influenced films like The Matrix, but didn't get addressed in this film," said Hirano.
Another moviegoer, Yuki, who had not read the original manga before seeing the film echoed Hirano’s “style over substance” criticism.
"It looked amazing. I think that was the best visuals they could have done in a live-action version. The story was a bit shallow though, it didn't go deep into the themes of the anime. But it's a Hollywood version, so that's what you expect," said Yuki.
Yuki was also not bothered by the casting of a white actress in the lead role. "I heard people in the U.S. wanted an Asian actress to play her. Would that be OK if she was Asian or Asian-American? Honestly, that would be worse: someone from another Asian country pretending to be Japanese. Better just to make the character white.”
Ghost in the Shell currently has a 73.22 ComicBook.com Composite Rating and a 3.66 out of 5 ComicBook.com User Rating. Let us know what you thought of Ghost in the Shell by giving it your own rating below.
Based on the internationally-acclaimed sci-fi property, Ghost in the Shell follows the Major, a special ops, one-of-a-kind human-cyborg hybrid, who leads the elite task force Section 9. Devoted to stopping the most dangerous criminals and extremists, Section 9 is faced with an enemy whose singular goal is to wipe out Hanka Robotic's advancements in cyber technology.
Ghost in the Shell is directed by Rupert Sanders and written by Jamie Moss, William Wheeler and Ehren Kruger, based on the Japanese manga by Masamune Shirow. Ghost in the Shell stars Scarlett Johansson, Takeshi Kitano, Michael Pitt, Pilou Asbæk, Chin Han and Juliette Binoche.
Ghost in the Shell is now playing in theaters.
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