×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

‘Ghost in the Shell’ Review Roundup: What the Critics Are Saying

Ghost in the Shell” — the polychromatic, Westernized live-action reboot of Masamune Shirow’s cult manga series of the same name — opens wide this weekend.

Although Rupert Sanders’ remake has been slammed for its controversial casting of Scarlett Johansson in the film’s (originally Japanese) headlining role, critics have begun to roll out their reviews — and the consensus looks like something of a mixed bag.  The VFX masterminds behind the film’s composite, techno-metropolis backdrop are praised for their aesthetic prowess, which pays homage to Mamoru Oshii’s animated adaptations in the mid-90s. But, despite its glossy veneer, it seems as though this iteration of a long-established series has, ironically, been whittled down to a shell of its original spirit. To this end, reviews credit the film’s exhaustive cultural overhaul, but have mixed reactions to Johansson’s performance. See what critics have to say below.

Variety‘s Guy Lodge

Popular on Variety

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 — even if a measure of their eerie, melancholic spirit hasn’t quite carried over to the immaculate new carapace. Box office returns should be muscular, minting what could be one of the more enticing franchises in a multiplex landscape riddled with robotic do-overs.

New York Times’ Manohla Dargis

Stripped of its deeper-dish musings, the story turns into a perfectly watchable, somewhat bland action movie, tricked out with sharp details, some fine actors and one slumming legend, the director-actor Takeshi Kitano, who plays Aramaki, Major’s boss. He only speaks in Japanese; Major and almost everyone else speak in English.

The characters understand one another, presumably because they’re beyond mere language and, in any event, they sometimes communicate telepathically. At first, the fact that they can speak to one another comes across as an inventive flourish, but like so much in “Ghost in the Shell” — the toddling geishas, the Asian extras — it helps to reduce an entire culture to a decorative detail. The movie has been widely criticized for casting Ms. Johansson in a role that was, of course, originally Japanese, a decision that isn’t offset by an absurd narrative twist that seems to have been created to forestall criticism but will only provoke further ire. This isn’t just appropriation; it’s obliteration.

Rolling Stone’s David Fear

In the end, you get Johansson spinning her wheels in a stock hero’s-journey story that feels stripped for exotic spare parts. The secret-sharer sense you got from watching the original, the idea that you had come across a low-frequency transmission that felt subversive yet familiar enough to strike a chord, has been surgically removed. All that’s left is big-budget cybersploitation scrubbed for a global audience, a machine designed to collect money. Who stole the soul? For a movie steeped in aspects of the singularity, there’s nothing very singular about this Ghost in the Shell at all.

The Hollywood Reporter’s Jordan Mintzer

The original film managed to be both violent and philosophical, putting the viewer in an uneasy place and pushing us to ponder the future of humanity in an increasingly computerized world — a world that would have a huge influence on the Wachowskis’ magnum opus, all the way down to the cable ports in the back of each character’s head. Here we get a taste of that ambiance, but it feels more like a backdrop than the crux of the story, which 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 Guardian’s Peter Bradshaw

It is 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. It has been standardised and westernised with hardly any actual Japanese characters left in it, and effectively reimagined as a superhero origin myth, with tropes derived from the existing templates laid down by Metropolis, Robocop, Blade Runner and Total Recall. The film incidentally makes some play with rudimentary Hawking-style robot voices. There are some stately cameos from Juliette Binoche and Takeshi Kitano.

Forbes’s Scott Mendelson

The most impressive thing about Ghost in the Shell is how quiet it is. Like Scarlett Johansson’s Lucy, this is another case of a hard sci-fi thriller/drama being sold as a slam-bang action movie. And yes, you do get sequences of Johansson’s major kicking butt and shooting folks, but it’s more about periodic bouts of quick violence than sustained action. The film doesn’t really become a conventional blockbuster until basically the brief action climax. Like the 1995 animated film on which it is based (I cannot speak to the literary source material), it is a meditative and almost soft-spoken meditation on how much humanity remains when our physical parts are no longer ours or even organic.

More Film

  • Colombia’s ‘Valley of Souls’ Wins Marrakech’s

    Colombia’s ‘Valley of Souls’ Wins Marrakech’s Etoile d’Or

    The 18th edition of the Marrakech Intl. Film Festival awarded the Etoile d’Or for best film to Colombia’s “Valley of Souls,” directed by Nicolás Rincón Gille. In his acceptance speech the director said: “Colombia is a country that people know very little about. But in this film I try to offer a glimpse of the [...]

  • SAFF Winners 2019

    ScreenSingapore: Philippines Projects Take Top Prizes at SAFF Market

    Projects from the Philippines took away the top prizes awarded Friday at the conclusion of Screen Singapore’s Southeast Asian Film Financing (SAFF) Project Market. The event is part of the Singapore Media Festival. The winners included director J.P. Habac’s musical comedy drama “Golden” about homeless gay seniors who reunite to perform as drag queens to [...]

  • THE FAVOURITE

    'The Favourite' Wins Big At The 32nd European Film Awards

    Yorgos Lanthimos’s “The Favourite” scooped the 32nd European Film Awards, winning best film, best comedy and best actress for Olivia Colman who previously won an Academy Award for her portrayal of Queen Anne in the film. “The Favourite” was leading the nominations along with Pedro Almodóvar’s “Pain and Glory,” Marco Bellocchio’s “The Traitor” and Roman [...]

  • Ed-Skrein-Erica-Rivas-Fernando-Trueba-Lucia-Puenzo

    Ventana Sur 2019: Big New Titles, Argentina-Mexico, Deals, Trends

    BUENOS AIRES   —  The last few years have caught Ventana Sur – Cannes Festival and Market’s biggest initiative outside France – taking place as the industry debated radical change. This year saw the Latin American industries in a state of  transformation themselves, wracked by headwinds – Jair Bolsonaro’s government in Brazil – or looking [...]

  • 'Free Guy' Trailer: Ryan Reynolds, Jodie

    'Free Guy': Ryan Reynolds, Taika Waititi, Jodie Comer Star in First Trailer

    The first trailer for Ryan Reynolds’ “Free Guy” premiered Saturday at the CCXP convention in Brazil. Reynolds stars as Guy, a bank teller and NPC (non-playable character) who discovers he’s living in a video game. In the trailer, hostage situations, buildings being blown up and people shooting guns off in the street is depicted as [...]

  • KARMELE

    Asier Altuna Preps Basque Historical Drama ‘Karmele the Hour of Waking Together’

    Basque cinema is booming, and director Asier Altuna is part of the vanguard leading it forward. The Spanish filmmaker, behind 2005 Youth Award winner “Aupa Etxebeste!” and 2015 Best Basque Film “Amama” at the San Sebastián Intl. Film Festival, attended this year’s Ventana Sur Proyecta sidebar with his next project, “Karmele, the Hour of Waking [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content