It tanked so miserably that, less than a week from its opening, a Paramount executive was forced to face the obvious: the movie was dead on arrival because of the film’s whitewashing controversy.
Note, however, that the blame is mildly shifted away from the actual cause, but more towards the controversy it created.
The much-touted live-action film adaptation of a popular Japanese anime property, earned a measly $19 million in its first three days, barely reaching Entertainment Weekly’s modest expectation of at least $30 million. The much lesser-known “Boss Baby” even out-grossed it at $49 million.
Considering that the film took $110 million to make, it definitely seems like a painful crash.
According to Paramount domestic distribution chief Kyle Davies, this is all due to the casting controversy that has beleaguered the production since it was announced. Johansson, a white actress, was given the role of Major Motoko Kusanagi.
The reaction was quick and loud. Anime fans and critics have expressed outrage in various social media platforms that another Asian role was once again being whitewashed.
“We had hopes for better results domestically. I think the conversation regarding casting impacted the reviews,” said Davies who was quoted by CBC News.
“You’ve got a movie that is very important to the fanboys since it’s based on a Japanese anime movie,” he added. “So you’re always trying to thread that needle between honoring the source material and make a movie for a mass audience. That’s challenging, but clearly, the reviews didn’t help.”
Threading the needle is one thing, but completely abandoning one side for the other is probably more of what they actually chose to do.
As for the critics, most reviewers have faulted the movie for simply not living up to its source material. On review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the movie gets an approval rating of 45% based on 171 reviews.
The consensus for the movie reads, “Ghost in the Shell boasts cool visuals and a compelling central performance from Scarlett Johansson, but the end result lacks the magic of the movie’s classic source material.”
In the end, we were left with another “Dragonball Evolution” or “Speed Racer”, both of which were whitewashed films sourced from anime. Had the filmmakers respected the original work and paid attention to the fans, things would have been quite different now.