Was the futuristic thriller “Ghost in the Shell” dead on arrival when it hit U.S. movie theaters over the weekend?
Hollywood executives may be trying to figure out why the movie flopped, but critics who questioned the casting of Scarlett Johansson as the futuristic cyborg hero in a story set in Japan were not surprised Monday when it was revealed that the movie flopped at the box office by making only $19 million in ticket sales domestically.
For close to a year, the debate over “Ghost in the Shell” was full of criticism over the decision to cast Johansson, a white woman, to play what is clearly an Asian character based on a Japanese comic book. The practice of casting a white actor to play a nonwhite character is what critics call “whitewashing.”
Evidence of the ensuing controversy was seen all over the internet for months with headlines like “Ghost in the Shell’s whitewashing: does Hollywood have an Asian problem?” and “The Whitewashing in ‘Ghost in the Shell’ Is Even Worse Than We Thought.” And on social media it was no different.
The blog Angry Asian Man was among “Ghost’s” most vocal critics, penning more than a dozen posts about the movie. Blog writers also occasionally took to Twitter to voice displeasure with the casting. On Monday, Angry Asian Man and other critics did not mince words on Twitter.
Whether Hollywood executives take the movie’s flop as a cue to make more inclusive films in the future remains to be seen, especially when other signs may explain why a movie the studio spent $110 million in producing was overshadowed by an animated movie called “The Boss Baby” that ended the weekend with $49 million at the box office.
Critics panned “Ghost in the Shell” on Rotten Tomatoes, with a majority categorizing it as rotten. And those who were willing to look beyond the controversy on social media pointed to other flaws: a dull script and vague marketing.
So is the movie still worth watching? Some said yes, praising its visual presentation and wanting to know more about the Japanese comic that started it all.
Now, will you still watch it? Share your thoughts.
Have some thoughts to share?
Join me in a conversation: Shoot me a private email with your thoughts or ideas on a different approach to this story. As always, you can also send us a tweet.