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YMMV / Ghost in the Shell (2017)

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  • Audience-Alienating Premise:
    • It's been suggested this may be part of the reason the movie performed badly in the US. For starters, it's an expensive adaptation of an anime that has Cult Classic status in the U.S. but otherwise is not well known in the Anglo-sphere or other western countries, particularly in modern day. The whole aesthetic on the man/machine and identity crisis, which was one of the draws of the franchise, had also been already presented in The Matrix (precisely The Wachowskis' love letter to the 1995 film) and many other cyberpunk works, thus making the film look like old hat. The filmmakers were also accused of taking far too many creative liberties than what hardcore fans were comfortable with, who argued that the result missed the point of the original. Finally, the ensuing Race Lift controversy meant that many journalists and bloggers, who normally could have been counted on to help promote the movie, now felt antsy about showing any support towards it. As the linked articles show, some wonder if there was actually a way this film could succeed at all.
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    • There a certain consensus among fans that the movie's basic premise was not the best for an adaptation of Ghost in the Shell in the first place. Before 2017, Kusanagi's past had never been a big deal in any continuity (or at least not in the way it is connected to the main plot here), so the decision to make the film an Origin Story for her, probably inspired by the success of recent superhero cinema, was condemned to feel unfamiliar and forced. It didn't help that Hideo Kuze is a relatively obscure antagonist, unlike more famous villains like the Puppet Master, the Laughing Man or Locus Solus, and neither it did the inclusion of Hanka, a name that is literally a villain-of-the-week in the manga. While the result could still be appreciated in a nostalgic light (as it gave Kuze symbolic elements of the characters above), it is hard to overlook this adaptation was cobbled together out of the franchise's least interesting pieces.
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    • A more minor one was establishing "Motoko Kusanagi" as the Major's real name, which is an incoherent name in Japanese and every other version has established as "an obvious pseudonym".
  • Author's Saving Throw: After months of controversy over the film's casting, Takeshi Kitano was hired to play Aramaki. They followed this up by casting a number of other Japanese actors, like Rila Fukushima. (Though Fukushima's casting didn't precisely help, since after the film was released, it was revealed she wasn't actually playing a character in the film, but instead served as the facial model for the robot geishas that Major battles in one scene.)
  • Awesome Music:
    • Ki:Theory's cover of "Enjoy the Silence" by Depeche Mode, which plays over the first theatrical trailer.
    • Clint Mansell and Lorne Balfe's score was also roundly praised, with some even saying it to be on par with Keiji Kawai's score for the original anime.
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    • Utai IV: Reawakening, the orchestrated cover of Making Of Cyborg, is chillingly awesome and atmospheric, with many viewers expressing regret that it didn't appear in the corresponding scenes — the shelling sequence in the beginning, and when the Major is going through the city — that it was used for in the original.
  • Broken Base:
    • The trailers and TV spots made a lot of hints about the Major's past. While some found this a welcome change considering that her past is traditionally very vague and different in every adaptation, others disliked it, pointing out that the Major's past is not always the focus of the franchise and that she doesn't need to angst about it. It didn't help that many people started comparing it to RoboCop.
    • The Reveal that the Major is in fact Motoko Kusanagi, and her ghost is still that of a Japanese woman in a shell that is white, was also controversial and divided viewers as to whether it successfully addresses the controversial casting decision In-Universe or just made the situation worse.
    • The movie's decision not to use the Fuchikoma/Tachikoma created a lot of contention between people who found their absence an acceptable change for the adaptation to make and those who thought it was a terrible idea that removed a crucial element of the franchise. The last camp also pointed out it would have been an unique touch of distinction for the film to introduce them, given that none of the Oshii films, which the movie heavily draws from, did so at their time.
  • Captain Obvious Reveal: Many people suspected Mira Killian was just a name given to the Major by Hanka. Her real name was revealed as, of course, Motoko Kusanagi. Both the trailer and the source material made it even worse.
  • Cliché Storm: An inevitable one, given that the film is an adaptation of a manga from The '80s, back when the whole Cyberpunk story with cyborg-human identity crisis and Mega Corps run by heartless businessmen was outright new and had not been done left and right yet. Some of those clichés were popularized by the manga itself in the first place.
  • Complete Monster: Cutter is the corrupt CEO of Hanka Robotics and the true mastermind behind the conflict. Engineering the mass kidnapping of teenage runaways from the Lawless Zone, Cutter authorizes illegal, covert experiments to perfect a transhuman weapon that leads to the death of ninety-seven of the runaways and the imperfect creation of the ninety-eighth, Kuze, whom Cutter orders disposed of like trash. Viewing the ninety-ninth, the Major, as little else but a living weapon for his own benefit, Cutter orders her killed when she learns too much and callously murders Dr. Ouelet, the doctor who initially performed the experiments, the moment she rebels against Cutter's immoral methods. With full intent to move onto further illegal projects, Cutter orders the entirety of Section 9 killed and tries to kill the Major and Kuze himself, cruelly referring to his own wayward creation as a "freak." A shallow hypocrite who refuses to acknowledge any fault of his own, Cutter is concerned purely with personal profit and is willing to stoop to any low in this pursuit.
  • Critical Dissonance: Professional critics gave it a 45% with an average rating of 5.5 on Rotten Tomatoes, compared to the slightly more positive 6.5 on Internet Movie Database. The affair is interestingly addressed in the latter page, as a surprising number of reviews spoke of the film as over-criticized or underrated in some way.
  • Germans Love David Hasselhoff: An already crowded box office along with whitewashing controversy hurt the movie's domestic box office earnings. International audiences were much more accepting of the film and the overseas income tripled the North American gross. Japanese reception was more favorable as well.
  • Harsher in Hindsight: Back in 2016, Scarlett Johansson faced criticism for playing a role of a Japanese character in this movie. Two years later, she was bombarded again with criticism for being cast as a trans man in the upcoming film, Rug and Tug which was also directed by Rupert Sanders. However, she backed out, knowing that being in another controversial role is detrimental to her career and to the growing casting problem in Hollywood.
  • Hilarious in Hindsight:
    • Back in 2004, DreamWorks distributed Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence for international release via their now-defunct Go Fish Pictures label. Then they produced the live-action adaptation of GitS.
    • Many fans defended the movie's whitewashing by saying Major was a cyborg, so her race could be anything, and there was nothing that said she wasn't originally born Japanese. Turns out that's exactly what happened in the film, as she was originally a Japanese runaway, who was kidnapped and illegally experimented on. Additionally, the film becoming a Box Office Bomb led to a lot of relief from the same people that a Japanese actress wouldn't be forced to take the blame for it.
    • Related, but the most common defense for Scarlett Johansson's casting was that she's a big enough star to bring in a mainstream audience, and anime director Mamoru Oshii went so far as to say he couldn't think of a more perfect actress for the part. The film ended up being a box office flop in America in spite of Johansson's considerable fame, and her performance was panned in a number of reviews.
    • The 1995 film was regarded as a classic and one of the greatest anime films of all time in the West, but in Japan, it's considered a slow, boring artsy film and a Mainstream Obscurity. Then the tables turned when the 2017 film received mixed reviews in the West while in Japan, it was considered an enjoyable stylish action film.
  • It Was His Sled: The Major is Motoko Kusanagi.
  • Memetic Mutation:
    • #IAmMajor which was Paramount's attempt to promote the movie but many people made fun of it such as mocking the casting choices of this movie and others (such as Finn Jones' role in Iron Fist) to several unrelated characters also using the "I Am" statement (e.g. Groot, the Senate). DreamWorks was not amused, and they allegedly disagreed pretty heavily with the way Paramount was marketing the film based on this backlash.
    • On a more general level, it launched the popular running joke of people fancasting Scarlett Johansson every time a movie or TV series featuring Asian characters is announced, as well as sarcastically calling her an Asian-American actress. Even Sandra Oh got in on it during the 2019 Golden Globe Awards:
    Sandra Oh: [Crazy Rich Asians] is the first studio film with an Asian American lead since Ghost in the Shell and Aloha.
  • Mexicans Love Speedy Gonzales: Japanese audiences were (surprisingly for some, not so much for others) more favorable toward this American adaptation of a Japanese property, including its most controversial aspects. People in Japan were shocked that there was any problem with Scarlett Johansson playing the Japanese lead, with some even calling her the best option for the role regardless of her race, and as for the divergent elements of the film compared to the manga and anime, Mamoru Oshii himself actually liked the movie and actually opined the producers should have deviated even more from the manga in order to create their own work instead of trying to remain plainly faithful to it.
  • Mis-blamed:
    • The film gets constantly compared with the Oshii anime movies, with most detractors labeling the former as unfaithful and disrespectful to the manga and citing the latter as the quintessential adaptation of the saga. However, contrary to popular belief, the Oshii films are just as divergent from the original manga as the live action film is, if not actually even more. It was the 1995 movie which started the trend of portraying the Major as a depressive philosopher instead of a provocative hustler, Batou as a somber straight man instead of a boisterous goofball, and the series's medium as a place for psychological musings instead of colourful action. Considering that the 2017 film brings out a bit of the Major's lively side again, gives Batou a less introspective nature and focuses on action first, it could be paradoxically said that it is a more faithful adaptation of Ghost in the Shell than the Oshii movies.
    • The controversy about the Major's whitewashing is now impossible to bury, but its basis is actually very flimsy. There's no official claim that the Major is supposed to be Asian, as the Japanese-sounding "Motoko Kusanagi" is explicitly a pseudonym, and the series' universe features a futurist Japan that received heavy immigration; characters like Batou and Ishikawa look remarkably un-Asian and have been suggested to be actually naturalized foreigners, so this could perfectly be Kusanagi's case too. Even more overtly, given that she has a synthetic body, Kusanagi could look the race she wanted with only changing her frame (which she did several times in the manga, in fact). The accusations of racism only reflect the same situation that has plagued the franchise from the very start: that few people in the West are actually familiar with the series other than its most stylish aspects.
  • Narm:
    • Kuze's name is dealt with inexplicable gravitas, like it was a some sort of meaningful, menacing title, like the Puppetmaster or the Laughing Man. The chances are that it was one of these two in earlier drafts and the script never ended up changing how it was presented.
    • The sheer amount of times that the film crams some variation of "Ghost in the Shell" into the conversation. This extended to the film's release in Spain, where it received the subtitle of The Machine's Soul in Spanish (admittedly, to make the title a bit more comprehensible given its awkward English).
    • It is evident that the film retains the manga's original Japanese setting, as the President is referred as "Prime Minister", traffic is left-handed, and there are Japanese cultural elements everywhere. However, both the film and its promotional materials are bizarrely shy about this and never mention explicitly where is it supposed to take place. This makes it look like the producers couldn't decide about a possible Thinly-Veiled Dub Country Change and just opted to write around it, which only makes it more awkward.
  • One-Scene Wonder: Saito has all of 20 seconds of camera time and one line in the entire film (including his silent presence in group settings) and just to snipe down a helicopter, but they leave their mark nicely.
    Aramaki: Is the Major safe?
    Saito: She will be.
  • Overshadowed by Controversy:
    • The film became this due to the race lifts of several characters from Asian to other races. Paramount executive Kyle Davies even conceded that the whitewashing controversy likely hurt the film at the U.S. box office. It was even brought up in the 2019 Golden Globe Awards where the hostess Sandra Oh joked about the film, together with Aloha, for its casting of white actresses as Asian leads.
    • On top of that, it was also revealed that the elaborate costumes caused several actresses to suffer from dehydration and heatstroke, due to the director refusing to let them take breaks.
  • "Seinfeld" Is Unfunny: The Ghost in the Shell franchise was a huge influence on The Matrix and on the cyberpunk genre as a whole. However, newcomers to the franchise likely saw Matrix first, and most of the themes of identity and people and machines were already covered there, and so many people wondered what all the fuss was about.
    Epic Voice Guy: "...the source material was so influential that now it feels like it's copying the films that it inspired."
  • So Okay, It's Average: The general critical consensus of the film, despite a few positive and negative outliers. While many agree that the technical aspect and the action are the highlights of the movie, the story itself is simplified and dumbed-down for the sake of newcomers of the franchise which many agreed that it is the weakest aspect of the movie. Similarly, even the harshest critics agree that the movie itself is not nearly as bad as other Hollywood film adaptations of anime like Dragonball Evolution or Astro Boy, yet still nowhere near as good as Alita: Battle Angel.
  • Special Effects Failure:
    • Several close in shots of Batou show the actor's real eyes clearly visible underneath the prosthetic cybereyes. However, this might be meant to be in-universe; as it is not revealed how damaged were Batou's eyes before his augmentation, he might actually retain his non-functional original eyes under the prosthesis.
    • When Major is being repaired after the explosion, close-ups on the red parts which possibly intend to be synthetic flesh give an overwhelming impression of simple red plastic film glued upon the actress. Very much like the previous example, though, it is not known how much of it is a special effects lacking or a deliberate choice.
  • They Changed It, Now It Sucks!:
    • After numerous trailer releases showing how well the developers were doing to Win the Crowd by faithfully recreating the visual, thematic, and atmospheric feel of the franchise, the "Wake Up" trailer reveals that they changed the Major's name from Motoko Kusanagi to "Mira Killian", where her getting called called by that name twice only a few seconds apart. Mira turns out to be a fake name and Motoko is supposedly her real name, which is rather ironic because "Motoko Kusanagi" was declared "an obvious pseudonym" in the original manga.
    • Far more people are upset over completely changing the Major's backstory and role in the Section 9 than the name change as they switched her from an Asskicking Equals Authority Commander to The Ingenue, albeit one that retains badass combat abilities.
  • They Wasted a Perfectly Good Character: Togusa. Though he did played a short but meaningful role in the 1995 film, the later adaptations, particularly Innocence and the Stand Alone Complex series, made him a Deuteragonist along with Batou. However in the 2017 film, he's doing the same role as Ishikawa (whose role is doing technical work) and doesn't do much detective work like he used to. While his actor is very good and he had more dialogue than the rest of Section 9, he's basically on the sidelines.
  • They Wasted a Perfectly Good Plot: The reveal that that the Major really was a Japanese person named Motoko Kusanagi offers up a gift-wrapped opportunity to directly address the Race Lift issues that plagued the film's production ever since the casting was announced, but any feelings she might have about literally being an Asian character turned into a white one are unaddressed. Of course, it has to be considered whether they could have be still in time of integrating this element in the plot at the production stage they were in when the controversy exploded.
  • Unfortunate Implications: In a roundtable discussion hosted by The Hollywood Reporter, it was argued that while The Reveal about the Major's past was probably meant to justify the casting and defuse the racial issue, it opened up another can of worms by virtue of having Asian characters be "upgraded" into perfect white bodies. This charge has been echoed in other pieces on the film as well.
    Atsuko Okatsuka: And they f—ed up in the process because now it looks even worse. The text at the beginning of the movie explained that Hanka Robotics is making a being that’s the best of human and the best of robotics. For some reason, the best stuff they make happens to be white.
  • Values Dissonance:
    "Accordingly, your average Japanese citizen’s outlook on diversity is much less influenced by pluralism than the outlooks of many Asian Americans, who live in a country where popular culture rarely represents them well, if at all. Hence, many Japanese Americans may find Johansson’s casting in a Ghost in the Shell movie distressing, while native Japanese observers make nothing of it."
    • Japanese-Americans have also commented on this, from the point of view of Japan not understanding whitewashing.
    • They also mention another case of Values Dissonance with Motoko's mother hugging her daughter at the grave, something awkward from a cultural point of view, along with other misplaced cultural attitudes.
  • Visual Effects of Awesome: While the ultimate reaction to the film was mixed, just about every critic and fan seems to be in agreement that the special effects, production design and cinematography were nothing short of breathtaking, and managed to capture the Cyberpunk aesthetic and tone of the original manga and anime down to a T.
  • Win the Crowd:
    • Paramount was at least painfully aware of the backlash against Johansson's casting, as they released a behind-the-scenes featurette before the first trailer even dropped featuring an interview with the original anime director Mamoru Oshii, who gave his blessing for the film and Johansson as the Major.
    • The first teasers for the film managed to allay some fears by creating a strong sense of atmosphere and showing shot-for-shot remakes of various iconic scenes from the original anime. The first theatrical trailer drew an even stronger positive reaction from fans through its thick atmosphere and stunning visuals, showing that at the very least the filmmakers are attempting to capture the aesthetics and mood of the Ghost in the Shell universe.
  • WTH, Casting Agency?:
    • When it was announced that Scarlett Johansson would star in the film, a lot of fans were not pleased by the Race Lift. Several Asian actresses were cited as being desired for the role.
    • A directorial example. The film being directed by Rupert Sanders angered and worried many people, given that he was basically a rookie director whose only previous title was Snow White and the Huntsman of all things, making it easy to thing he wasn't simply the right person to manage an already delicate product (given that Hollywood anime adaptations tend not to do very well in general).
    • A more minor example is Ishikawa, played by a Fijian Australian actor. While an argument was made regarding the Major's casting that since the Major is a full-body cyborg, she could theoretically plug her brain into a body of any ethnicity, Ishikawa is one of the least augmented members of Section 9 (the others would be Togusa and Aramaki who are both fully human with cybernetic communication implants) making some scratch their head regarding the casting.
    • Casting the 47-year old Chin Han to play Togusa, who in all the previous versions of the franchise has been the rookie of the team or stated to be 27 years old, raised a fair bit of confusion. It only got muffled because Han gave a good impression of the character.
    • When it was announced that Rila Fukushima was cast in the movie, many expected that she might play a big role with some speculating that she might be the real Mokoto Kusanagi or the Major's new cybernetic body that she got when her old one was damaged which is similar to the 1995 film. Turns out that the director only based her physical features for the geisha robots that the Major fought at the beginning of the movie.


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