Paramount Distribution Chief: Ghost in the Shell Film Received Poor Reviews Due to Whitewashing Controversy
Paramount domestic distribution chief Kyle Davies told CBC News this week that he believes “the conversation regarding casting impacted the reviews” for Dreamworks and Paramount’s Ghost in the Shell film. “We had hopes for better results domestically,” he said.
He continued, “You’ve got a movie that is very important to the fanboys since it’s based on a Japanese anime movie. 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.”
The film has elicited controversy over whitewashing since it was announced that Scarlett Johansson would play the Major, a character who was Japanese in the original story. Fans petitioned Dreamworks as early as 2015 to replace Johansson and garnered over 28,000 signatures. Cast members and staff responded to the controversy, with producer Steven Paul denying that Ghost in the Shell is just a “Japanese story” and that original manga creator Masamune Shirow and Kodansha have been very supportive of the film. Johansson defended her choice to accept the role and original film director Mamoru Oshii backed her up, saying, “I believe having Scarlett play Motoko was the best possible casting for this movie.”
The film has so far underperformed at the box office. The film debuted in the United States on March 31 and earned US$18.7 million in its first three days, falling short of Box Office Mojo’s estimated US$32.5 million. Overseas, the film earned US$40.1 million in its opening weekend. The film will opening in Japan and China on April 7.