Ghost in the Shell was set up to be a blockbuster, with a $110 million production budget behind it, but the film made only $19 million at the box office this weekend, far less than projected. To further the embarrassment, it came in third behind Beauty and the Beast and a movie about a talking baby.
This marks yet another fail for the whitewashing industry, following Matt Damon in The Great Wall, Christian Bale in Exodus: Gods and Kings, Emma Stone in Aloha, and so on. So maybe Hollywood can begin to rethink pushing films that center white characters in stories that are centrally about minorities? The way the Ghost in the Shell remake plays out does nothing to save it **SPOILER**—a young Japanese woman’s brain is implanted into the cyborg Major played by Scarlett Johansson, which is a spin on the original.
It didn’t seem to matter that some fans weren’t that bothered by the casting, or that the director of the original didn’t see the issue. In a piece today about whether Ghost in the Shell’s fail will do much to change anything, Vanity Fair’s Joanna Robinson writes: “Though America itself is a very socially divided country, the cool, impartial truth of box office returns reveals a film and TV industry that is facing a sea change when it comes to Asian representation. History may soon look back on the Asian erasure of Doctor Strange, Iron Fist, and Ghost in the Shell with an even more unfavorable eye.”
Despite the potential intrigue of a story about the literal appropriation of Asian identity for the sake of technology, the remake failed to explore that complexity. And while movies generally have the power to wash away any criticism, Ghost in the Shell just wasn’t good enough. Also, people love talking babies.