The first reviews of the Gran Turismo movie are in, and the response is mixed.
Of the reviews currently listed, nine have been written by critics marked as ‘Top Critics’ on Rotten Tomatoes. Of these, seven are negative and two are positive.
Variety gives the film a positive review, with critic Owen Gleiberman saying: “Gran Turismo puts the audience in the driver’s seat more than just about any race-car movie I can think of.”
Christian Zilko of IndieWire is similarly impressed, giving the movie a B grade and stating that while it’s clear that it’s mainly designed to promote the game, director Neill Blomkamp delivers a film better than it should be.
“Cinephiles used to have the luxury of knowing that the art and craft of filmmaking were somewhat linked – studios would always make shameless cash grabs, but at least you could assume that they’d hire bad directors and hamstring them with bad notes,” he says. “But Gran Turismo is proof that great craftsmanship can occur in artistically barren settings.”
The Guardian’s Ryan Gilbey is far less forgiving of the film’s game promotion, giving it a one-star rating and calling it a “super-bland ode to product placement”.
“Commerce contaminates the whole endeavour,” Gilbey says. “When Jann gives Jack a heartfelt gift, which company logo is clearly visible on it? (Clue: it isn’t Apple.) And as the teenager progresses through the ranks and the race-tracks, we keep hearing how the original PlayStation product is a driving simulator rather than a mere game.
“It is a distinction that applies to the movie: this is a simulation of cinema, with scarcely a human fingerprint anywhere on its chassis.”
Empire’s John Nugent gives the movie 2 stars and ends with a similar metaphor. “It’s just the usual Top Gun-Rocky-Mighty Ducks formula, plus as many licensed logos in the frame as can be fitted,” he says.
“Gran Turismo, the characters frequently like to remind us, is not a game – it’s a racing simulator. You could just as easily level that this isn’t really a film – it’s mostly just a film simulator.”
Gran Turismo is set to release on August 9 in the UK, and will have a limited release in the US on August 11 before getting a wider release on August 25.
The film is based on the true story of Jann Mardenborough, who won the GT Academy esports tournament in 2011 and is now a professional racer competing in the Japanese Super GT series.
It’s directed by Neill Blomkamp (Demonic, Chappie, Elysium, District 9) from a script written by Jason Hall (American Sniper) and Zach Baylin (King Richard). It stars Orlando Bloom, David Harbour, Djimon Hounsou, Geri Horner, and Archie Madekwe as Mardenborough.