Hollywood adaptations of asian movies

A lot was riding on the success of Ghost in the Shell. The upcoming wave of anime adaptations such as Death Note and Akira, Paramount Pictures’ chance for a new sci-fi franchise led by Scarlett Johansson, and the chance to stymie the steadily-growing outcry against whitewashing.

But when Ghost in the Shell limped into theaters last weekend, bringing in a meager $20 million domestically on a $110 million budget, that may have spelled the end for Hollywood adaptations of anime classics. But this is not the first time Hollywood has tried and failed to remake a critically and financially successful film based on an Asian property — nor will it be the last time. The question I’m interested in answering is whether or not these Hollywood adaptations of Asian movies actually make money. Let’s look at the numbers. 

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ghost in the shell whitewashing

(Welcome to The Soapbox, the space where we get loud, feisty, and opinionated about something that makes us very happy…or fills us with indescribable rage. In this edition: the subject of racial erasure in Ghost in the Shell.)

The live action Ghost in the Shell has been the eye of a storm of controversy ever since its inception. It’s been accused of whitewashing due to the casting of Scarlett Johansson as the franchise’s protagonist, Major Motoko Kusanagi, as well as deeply unpleasant rumors that CGI had been used to alter an actor’s appearance to “shift [their] ethnicity.” Coming on the heels of similar controversies (Doctor StrangeIron Fist) and discussion, the conversation around it (arguments that the movie speaks for itself when it comes to the casting controversy, that the movie’s visuals are merit enough to disregard the problems inherent in it) only seems more tone-deaf, especially considering how those problems stack up.

Spoilers ahead.

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Ghost In The Shell spoiler review

(In our Spoiler Reviews, we take a deep dive into a new release and get to the heart of what makes it tick…and every story point is up for discussion. In this entry: Rupert Sanders’ Ghost in the Shell.)

Ghost in the Shell sometimes feels more preoccupied with how characters are framed than what they’re doing and saying. They usually look and sound fantastic, but rarely do they register as real flesh and blood in director Rupert Sanders‘ adaptation of the classic manga and anime. Ghost in the Shell is a distancing movie never quite as humane as its themes.

Below, check out our Ghost in the Shell spoiler review.

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Ghost in the Shell review

The live-action remake of Ghost in the Shell is a cinematic cubic zirconia that thinks it’s a diamond. The real thing exists, and is much easier to recognize; even at its gloomy, stylish best, this version is a poser unable to hide its true nature. The 2017 Ghost in the Shell is itself a ghost, a trace of something familiar left behind that can’t quite replicate the sense of being introduced to a strange new world that feels disturbingly close to our own. Though many of the themes inherent in this story are still relevant in 2017, nearly 30 years after the Masamune Shirow manga was first published and more than 20 years after the release of the iconic anime, Ghost in the Shell fails to capitalize.

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Ghost in the Shell Whitewashing PSA

The issue of whitewashing in Hollywood is a frustrating one, and the latest culprit in the struggle of non-white actors to have lead roles in major franchises is Ghost in the Shell.

Scarlett Johansson has the lead role in the American adaptation of the Japanese manga turned anime, a story which originally featured a female Japanese protagonist at its center. There are those who don’t understand why that’s a problem simply because the movie has to appeal to American audiences. But a new Ghost in the Shell whitewashing PSA by filmmakers Chew May and Jes Tom illustrates why having diversity in movies that are adapted from this kind of source material are important. Read More »

Scarlett Johansson in Ghost in the Shell

Ghost in the Shell may come up short on humanity, but the early reviews suggest director Rupert Sanders‘ live-action remake of Mamoru Oshii‘s 1995 manga adaptation is satisfying eye candy. Some reviews note that the film features another exceptional performance from Scarlett Johansson, although some of the movie’s critics write that the script holds her back a little. Sanders’ second feature may lack a heart and a sturdy third act, but by most accounts, it overcomes some of its problems with style.

Now, let’s take a look at the reviews themselves.

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Ghost in the Shell TV Spots

(Welcome to Movie Mixtape, where we find cinematic relatives and seek out interesting connections between new releases and older movies that allow us to rethink and enjoy what’s in our theaters as well as the favorites on our shelf. In this edition: Rupert Sanders’ Ghost in the Shell.)

Elon Musk is on the verge of shoving AI into our brains, and Scarlett Johansson hits theaters this week to sell us on how cool becoming a cyborg can be. After almost three decades in the public consciousness, first as a gorgeously challenging manga and then as boundary-busting animation, Masamune Shirow’s Ghost in the Shell has evolved into human form.

Finding films to watch alongside it isn’t hard. The cyberpunk exploits of Public Security Section 9 chasing down a mind hacker have inspired the technological imaginations of plenty of modern movies (not to mention launching a franchise of three animated movies, a TV series and several Original Video Animations).

Ghost in the Shell is the godmother that came along at the perfect time to re-launch a vision of the future fueled by the incipient internet, our relationship to AI, and the near-inevitability of our fusion with machines. It turns out the only difficulty in hunting down its peers is finding examples that see that future as optimistically as it does.

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Ghost In The Shell opening scene

Snow White and the Huntsman isn’t the most lively adventure movie – it’s fairly serious and has a certain grit that, tonally, is quite distancing. Director Rupert Sanders seems to be going for a dour tone once again with his second feature, but it may actually suit the live-action take on Ghost in the Shell. Like the trailer featuring yet another sad cover of a terrific song (“Enjoy the Silence”), the first five minutes of the film are a bit on the grim and solemn side.

Watch it below and see if you agree.

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ghost in the shell clip

At the very least, perhaps we can expect the upcoming Ghost in the Shell to be mostly pleasing to the eyes and ears. Director Rupert Sanders has exhibited a sharp eye in his commercial work and even his underwhelming directorial debut, Snow White and the Huntsman, looked great. Accompanying Sanders’ high-tech futuristic eye candy is a score from none other than Clint Mansell (Moon). Their work hand-in-hand could be quite an experience on the big screen. Whether the movie is as good as some of the talent involved, including the film’s star, Scarlett Johansson, we’ll know next week.

In the meantime, we can watch this new Ghost in the Shell clip, which showcases an action scene from the film.

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Cool Posts From Around the Web:

Ghost in the Shell Dubbed

For fans of the original Ghost in the Shell anime and manga who might be perturbed by the fact that the live-action adaptation from Paramount Pictures is starring Scarlett Johansson, creating another instance of whitewashing in Hollywood, the studio is trying to make amends in an interesting but potentially problematic way.

When a Hollywood film is released in Japan, audiences can choose to see it with subtitles or dubbed by actors. In the case of Ghost in the Shell, the actors doing the voiceover work for the dubbed version will be the original voice actors of the anime adaptation from 1995. Read More »