Scarlett Johansson’s cyborg heroine, the Major, will make her live-action cinematic debut this weekend in Ghost in the Shell. After years of speculation, and almost as much time spent on casting controversy, fans of the Japanese manga and its beloved anime adaptation will finally be able to judge for themselves: Was Ghost in the Shell worth all the fuss? Based on early reviews, the short answer seems to be yes.
Tim Robey of The Telegraph largely praised the film, calling it “soulful” and adding that “Johannson is in her element.” At Variety, Guy Lodge offered similar praise saying the movie was successful in “spectacularly honoring the spirit and aesthetic of Mamoru Oshii’s beloved animated adaptations without resorting wholly to slavish cosplay.”
Writing for Den of Geek UK, Ryan Lambie asserted that the film’s visuals are fairly successful largely thanks to director Rupert Sanders’s attention to detail saying, “His Ghost in the Shell is striking-looking …”
Stella Papamichael at Radio Times claimed that the philosophical elements of the movie help to make it work, writing “it’s the identity crisis that stems from having a human brain that gives this kinetic, psychedelic thriller its pulse.”
Not all reviews have been overwhelmingly positive. Even among those that praise the film, that praise seems to err on the side of pointing out the excellent visual design of the film. And for some critics, that wasn’t enough. Borys Kit of the Hollywood Reporter said the film failed because it was “more visuals than ideas,” and he called the movie “slick and lifeless.” Peter Bradshaw of The Guardian felt that while movie looked pretty good, it lacked “the opaque cult mystery” that made the original anime so successful.
It’s hard to get a consensus from these early reviews, and it seems likely fan reactions will be divided. But, even the film’s detractors seem to believe Ghost in the Shell accomplished at least one of its goals: to faithfully recreate the look and feel of the Mamoru Oshii anime to immers audiences in its futuristic cyberpunk world.
Ghost in the Shell is out in wide release on March 31, 2017.