Japanese Ghost in the Shell fans quite like the remake

Ryan Leston
·UK Movies Writer
Scarlett Johansson as the Major - Credit: Paramount
Scarlett Johansson as the Major - Credit: Paramount

‘Ghost in the Shell’ is doing considerably better in Japan.

It’s no secret that ‘Ghost in the Shell’s US debut was less-than desirable – earning just $18.6 million in its opening weekend. And it hasn’t done an awful lot better since then. But just as Hollywood was about to call ‘Ghost in the Shell’ a colossal flop, the foreign market seems to have saved it – earning $41.3 million from 46 markets, including China.

But while its Japanese opening left something to be desired (earning a mere $3.2 million) it looks as though local fans of the franchise are far more excited about the movie.

And they seem to rather like it.

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Heading to the Toho Cinema complex in Shinjuku, central Tokyo, The Hollywood Reporter spoke to a number of Japanese fans about the movie.

And they had some pretty positive thoughts.

“It looked really cool and I really enjoyed it,” said Tomoki Hirano – a big fan of the original manga and anime. “They didn’t just try and copy the original, but came up with an original story, which was a better approach. Because it was a Hollywood production, they could use that size of budget to create those visuals of that quality.”

Most major home-grown Japanese releases don’t get even a tenth of the $110 million budget used to make ‘Ghost in the Shell’… and with its slick visuals and impressive CGI, it’s easy to see why the Japanese audiences would be bowled over.

Johansson… busts out her thermoptic suit – Credit: Paramount
Johansson… busts out her thermoptic suit – Credit: Paramount

And it seems they weren’t bothered about Scarlett Johansson’s casting, either.

“She was very cool,” said Hirano. “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].”

His sentiments certainly seem to echo those of most Japanese viewers, who simply weren’t all that bothered by the perceived ‘whitewashing’ controversy.

But he wasn’t too impressed by the film’s plot, which failed to bring anything new to discussions of the complex issues it was based upon.

“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,” he said.

Scarlett Johansson in 'Ghost In The Shell' - Paramount
Scarlett Johansson in ‘Ghost In The Shell’ – Paramount

And he wasn’t the only one who thought that.

Yuki, a young office worker who saw the film at the same cinema, also found that ‘Ghost in the Shell’ had more style than substance.

“It looked amazing,” he said. “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.”

Again, he wasn’t too concerned about the casting.

In fact, he thought that Scarlett Johansson was “probably the best choice”.

“I heard people in the U.S. wanted an Asian actress to play her,” he said. “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’ stars Scarlett Johansson, Pilou Asbaek, Takeshi Kitano, Juliette Binoche, Yutaka Izumihara, Peter Ferdinando, and Michael Pitt.

Rupert Sanders directed the movie based on a script by Jamie Moss, William Wheeler, and Ehren Kruger.

‘Ghost in the Shell’ is in cinemas now.

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