Gran Turismo Met With Muted Critical Response: “Cliched”, “Trope-Laden”, “a Sony Commercial”

Media worldwide have been publishing their reviews of the Gran Turismo movie now that the press screening embargo has passed, and thus far the critical response has been pretty mediocre.

Review aggregator sites Metacritic and Rotten Tomatoes, each of which assembles reviews from multiple sources to generate a single score that indicates an overall impression, have the film sitting firmly in the average. Metacritic places the critics’ score at 47%, while Rotten Tomatoes gives it a “rotten” score of 58%.

In both cases this reflects a film with more overtly negative reviews than positive ones — the highest single score across both outlets is 75% — but with the overwhelming majority hedging at a score somewhere in the middle.

When we reviewed the film earlier this week, based on a public screening as we were not invited to any preview screenings and thus not subject to the embargo, we rather like the racing action sequences as well as the performance of David Harbour as the fictional Jack Salter character, and this is something that attracts the most praise from other outlets too.

Gran Turismo Movie Spoilers Beyond This Point!

Justin Lowe of The Hollywood Reporter cites the action sequences as “the thrills that sell” and overcome the film’s “conspicuous deficit” in other departments. A more positive review from Todd McCarthy of Deadline still calls out the “potent auto action”, with Kristen Lopez of The Wrap highlighting the “wonderful job” of Jacques Jouffret in “capturing the thrill and fast-paced action”.

Not everyone is convinced though; Ross Bonaime of Collider remarks that the filming style “minimizes the excitement at every turn”, while Jeremy Mathai at Slashfilm lambasts the way the film recreates the game’s camera angles as “awfully stiff”. Curtis Moldrich at Car Magazine also notes the appearance of the “changes down and accelerates” racing film trope…

“Thank goodness for David Harbour”, declares The Guardian, in an otherwise excoriating review. It’s probably the only uniform sentiment out there, with every outlet either praising or highlighting Harbour’s performance. Harbour is described as “a full-throttle delight” in the Evening Standard and “charismatic” by Total Film, while Christian Zilko of IndieWire notes Harbour and Archie Madekwe (as Jann Mardenborough) “nail the … dynamic”.

Of the myriad criticisms, one common theme regards its — unsurprising — links to Sony. It’s “a pious ode to Sony’s wondrous PlayStation system” says IndieWire, “a highly elaborate corporate branding exercise” according to Empire, and too many outlets to count bringing up the irony of Orlando Bloom’s line “This whole thing is a marketing extravaganza!”.

One particularly bizarre example of this is in another brusing review in the UK’s Telegraph newspaper, which proclaims that the film is an “adoring advert … which presents its creator, Kazunori Yamauchi, as a benevolent God”. Beyond the opening crawl, we felt Yamauchi as a character was badly underused (even if Yamauchi as a person was amusingly included).

Plenty of fun is poked at the advertorial nature elsewhere, especially Madekwe’s early exchange with a “perfunctory” love interest when she dares to call Gran Turismo a game. It’s a character some outlets cite as woefully underused and only then so that the film “could technically pass the Bechdel Test”.

While the critics may be expressing mixed-to-negative reactions to the movie, members of the public who’ve seen it over the past few weeks have been more generous.

Of course it wouldn’t be the first time there’s been a disconnect between how the paying public and film critics have viewed a film — especially a gaming film. Gran Turismo is within 1% of The Super Mario Bros Movie on both Metacritic and Rotten Tomatoes, and that gained rave audience reviews and a $1.4bn take.

The film’s official release is still a couple of weeks away yet — although confusingly public screenings are already available and the original August 11 launch date is being honored by many theaters so you may be able to catch it before then.

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