Ghost In The Shell entered into cinemas with a whimper over the weekend, as a mixture of poor reviews and negative energy over the casting of Scarlett Johansson combined to leave audiences disinterested. After grossing just $18.7 million at the U.S. box office so far, there's little to no chance of the film kick starting a franchise as originally planned.
So where did Ghost In The Shell, which admittedly was overflowing with slick, stunning visuals and boasted a fine leading performance from Scarlett Johansson, go wrong? Well, here are four mistakes that Ghost In The Shell made that stopped the film from being entertaining, let alone a success.
The Movie's Tediously Plotted
Ghost In The Shell seems to wear the term "all style, no substance" as a badge of honor. Director Rupert Sanders and cinematographer Jess Hall deserve credit for creating an alluring and captivating film to behold, which makes it doubly disappointing that what they do with it is so utterly tedious. We're not given enough depth and details surrounding the growth and prevalence of cybernetics, while the plots of Scarlett Johansson searching for both the supposed villain Hideo Kuze (Michael Pitt) and her true identity are presented in such a cold and ho-hum fashion that you never once feel invested. In fact, because it's so dull, you end up letting the plot pass you by completely and instead focus on (and wallow in) the gorgeous visuals. But after a while even that gets boring, and by the time you return your attention to Ghost In The Shell's actual plot, you've long become bored and instead are counting down the minutes until it's finally over.
It Doesn't Probe Any Existential Themes
It's not even that Ghost In The Shell doesn't possess strong ideas and themes. The Major (Scarlett Johansson) finds herself constantly questioning whether she's more human or cyborg, as the pull of Motoko Kusanagi's brain inside her skull means that she's looking to find a true connection and forge her own identity. Yet, these existential themes are never probed in a compelling or intriguing fashion, while not enough of an attempt is made for the audience to resonate or invest in The Major's struggles and her plight. Scarlett Johansson tries her upmost to create such a link, and in fact puts in one of her most disciplined and touching performances to date as a result, but Jamie Moss, William Wheeler and Ehren Kruger's script doesn't ask the right questions, and Rupert Sanders' direction is too emotionless, robotic, and distant for you to ever actually care.
There's No Personality In The Characters
It also doesn't help that none of the characters in Ghost In The Shell are even remotely interesting. In fact, I'd even go as far as to say this is the least I've ever cared about a movie ensemble. Sure, Scarlett Johansson puts in a towering performance as The Major, but we're only given a good enough reason to truly care about her right at the end of the movie, and for the most part she's just moodily plodding through the film. Pilou Asbaek's Batou isn't humorous enough, the rest of Section 9 are indistinguishable, Peter Ferdinando's villain is lackluster, Juliette Binoche's Dr. Ouelet is a cliché and has an arc that we've seen dozens of times before, while the most interesting character, Michael Pitt's Kuze, is kept in the shadows for most of the running time.
There Aren't Enough Action Or Set Pieces
Ultimately, though, Ghost In The Shell just doesn't have enough action or set-pieces, especially when you consider that it has Scarlett Johansson leading the way and cost $110 million to make. The final scene in particular is almost thrust upon us, and you only realize as it's coming to an end that this is how Ghost In The Shell is going to close out. Rupert Sanders actually handles the action scenes quite well, as they're shot in clear, fluid, and energetic fashion. But none of them up the ante of Ghost In The Shell, and they're all just fine rather than astounding. Which, when you consider that the time in between these scenes is truly dull, means that Ghost In The Shell is never able to develop a rhythm and leaves it to just digress into a lifeless mess of a film.